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Looking Back




He Will (Try To) Survive

Rattlesnakes? 220-mile runs? That’s nothing for Bruce Kanegai, who has been outwitting, outlasting, and outplaying on CBS’ hit show.

Thirty-nine trips to the emergency room and appearances on television shows titled Worst Case Scenario and It’s a Miracle should have proven that Bruce Kanegai, 58, is a survivor. But he recently set out to claim that exact title on the popular reality show, Survivor: Panama—Exile Island.

Aside from his numerous brushes with death (including a bite from a four-and-a-half-foot rattlesnake), Kanegai has also survived the classroom for the past 34 years as a visual arts teacher at Simi Valley High School in California. As a student, “I didn’t enjoy high school and I thought education should be more enjoyable and inspiring,” Kanegai says. “I thought I could do better and touch young people’s lives.”

Armed with a black belt, Kanegai has instructed more than 7,000 students in the art of karate, and he is writing a book about American Shotokan Karate. He’s set the record for running the 220-mile John Muir Trail from Mount Whitney to Yosemite National Park.

Throughout his childhood, “I was no athlete,” Kanegai says. “I was always the smallest person in my class [and] the last one picked.” High school friend Steve Becker calls him “a giant man packed into a little guy’s body. He’s got this warrior spirit.” Although he is the oldest participant on Survivor this season, his physical condition and competitive spirit made him a contender.

No word by the time this went to press if Kanegai had been exiled or was in it for the long haul. And his CBS contract keeps him mum on his Panama adventure. But he did hint that he has a secret weapon: the support of his wife, also a teacher, who’s endured all 39 emergency room trips since they met 28 years ago.        

—CAITLIN HICKEY

Climb Every Mountain

Colorado teacher Matt Tredway heads to the top of the world and plans to do a little research while he’s there.

Ever wish you could get away from it all? This month, Tredway, a Steamboat Springs High School science and math teacher, will take a leave of absence and mount an intense vertical journey up the south face of Mt. Everest in Nepal—a climb of 29,035 feet. (And you thought your stack of assessment tests was high.)

Tredway began climbing as a boy. By the time he was in high school, he had scaled many of Colorado’s highest peaks. In the early 1980s, he became an instructor, specializing in climbing, backpacking, and winter mountaineering. Tredway translated his enthusiasm for climbing into teaching outside of the classroom, too, founding and directing Everything Outdoors Steamboat, an outdoor education and recreation program.

After a roughly 23-hour flight to Kathmandu, Tredway and the five other members of his team will begin a week-long hike to Mt. Everest’s base camp. They plan to make various climbs and descents to base camp at first. Then, May 8—13, they’ll attempt one of the most coveted climbing goals among extreme athletes: Mt. Everest’s summit. Hypoxia and unpredictable weather—common impediments to extreme altitude climbing—will be constant worries.

While on the mountain, Tredway and his teammates will research the effects of high altitude on the blood, in collaboration with the University of Alabama School of Medicine. They are also using the climb to raise money for the American Lung Association.

Follow along with Tredway and his team , as they plan to share written and audio dispatches and photos from the Mt. Everest climb.          

—JEANNE BEYER

Back for the Future

Mark Armato of Missouri brings history to life for his audiences one costume change at a time.

On an ordinary day, Armato heads into his eighth-grade social studies class, takes roll, and begins the lesson. But on special days he doesn’t show up to class at all. A substitute in an oversized buckle belt, jacket, and wide-brimmed cowboy hat evocative of the 1800s does. Jesse James, the infamous outlaw, is taking over for the period. “I understand folks can’t make up their minds about me,” says James, and for the next half-hour a different teacher and a different history class are under way.

Armato is a 26-year veteran of the Maple Park Middle School in Kansas City, Missouri. When he’s not teaching history, he’s acting it out, at school and in the community.

An advertisement calling for Civil War re-enactors first drew his interest in the 1970s. “[I’ve] always been a history buff,” Armato says, before confessing, “I guess I’d be what you call a Civil War nerd.” He’s amassed a period clothing and memorabilia collection worth thousands. Civil War photographer Mathew Brady, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, and Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere are among his most popular roles. It’s not just about the clothes, either; Armato uses historically accurate speeches and motivations to breathe life into the figures.

Would he like to live in the past? “I’d really like to visit but not to live,” says Armato. “I enjoy modern life.”

—ALAN McCOMBS

Digital Grandma, Version 6.6

Iowa retiree Susan Wakefield can talk technology and teach it to her peers, too.

Susan Wakefield is not the kind of senior citizen who has to ask her grandchildren for help programming her VCR. In fact, she teaches people how to use far more sophisticated equipment.

The 66-year-old Wakefield (below at right), first became interested in video and television production toward the end of her career as an elementary language arts teacher.

“I’d had some experience videotaping classroom lessons, and I learned that a local cable company could provide the equipment and training so we could make and broadcast student productions,” says Wakefield, a member of the NEA/ISEA-Retired Program. She pursued the idea and quickly caught the video bug—earning money in retirement by videotaping weddings and producing a professional video on warehouse safety.

Three years ago, Wakefield got involved with the Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center, which operates its own TV studio, Senior Center TV. Assisted by graduate students from the University of Iowa, volunteers learn every aspect of television production and create their own programs, which air on local cable and cover everything from studio interviews to videotaped shows of the senior center’s band and choir. Sometimes Wakefield does the teaching.

“I love the variety of work,” says Wakefield. “Most of all, I love watching our TV staff volunteers active in something that allows them to age creatively.”                   

—MATT SIMON

Photos: MONTY BRINTON/CBS Copyright 2006 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved; Matt Tredway, ROB GRANTHAM/VINCENT PHOTOGRAPHY; MARK TADE/GAZETTE COMMUNICATIONS

 

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6-May-06