It is not often that a grateful student or graduate will take the time to sit down and write a note of appreciation to an especially inspiring instructor. It is even more rare for twenty-two of them to take pen in hand – but that is exactly what they did for Michael Stewart, Criminal Justice Corrections Program Director and instructor at the Hesperia campus.
Michael Stewart was surprised…and awed…at the compliments and gratitude heaped upon him from so many.
“Wow, I didn’t know they did that,” said Stewart, who admits his paramilitary structured program “is not easy.”
CJC cadets go through a boot camp style of training that includes marching, uniform inspections and plenty of boot polishing. Michael Stewart makes it clear that there are consequences if a student is not prepared each day and does not meet all physical and dress code requirements.
“It can be very difficult until you understand the importance of discipline,” he says. “I want you looking good because, in law enforcement, if you look put together, then you can open your mouth and I’ll listen to you.”
A lot of Mr. Stewart’s students understood the importance of that principle. They are very vocal about how that lesson, and so many others they were given, made them better at everything else they undertook.
Here are a few excerpts from their notes of appreciation:
Cadet Michael Dennis…“Sir, I would like you to know that with your help I’ve changed for the best and now I am on my way to becoming a man.” Cadet Marlene Bocanegra…“You have pushed me to the point I thought I was ready to give up, then pushed me even harder. I only hope I’ve made you proud in all I’ve done here.” Cadet Bryan Miramontes… “Mr. Stewart has helped me by seeing the leader in me. My mind is more disciplined and my body is more conditioned.” Cadet Marco Diaz…“When I came here I was weak, lazy, stubborn and only thought of me. He (Stewart) made me a better person and a stronger person. No other teacher I had changed my bad habits; he did it in 3 months.”
Stewart describes his teaching style as fair, firm and consistent. “If those three things are in order, things become very easy,” he says.
Michael Stewart knows something about the accolades that follow a giving nature. He was recently the honored recipient of The Golden Rule International Award for his humanitarian work in the community. The award was presented to Mr. Stewart by Dr. Clyde Rivers, representative to the United Nations at Interfaith Peace-Building Initiative and the Honorable Ambassador at Republic of Burundi, Africa.
This organization seeks out top achievers who live the Golden Rule, “Treat others the way you want to be treated”, in their everyday life. The award is now established in 120 nations.
Michael Stewart has spent much of his life coaching – and inspiring – youth. He was an intervention liaison in the Hesperia school district’s 20 schools, working with students who had discipline issues, were in gangs or homeless. He was the Head Coach for the Victorville College women’s basketball team for seven years.
Michael Stewart comes from a long line of educators. “There are tons of teachers and coaches in my family,” says Stewart, who comes from a military background. “I want to instill that military discipline n others because it instills good character and good morals.”
Michael and his wife Andrea have three children, Richard, Shanice and Danielle, who are all in college, and have undoubtedly benefitted from parents attuned to the needs and struggles of today’s youth. Michael credits his mom and dad, Carrie and Michael, with much of his philosophy – and success.
“When good things happen, Mom says, ‘That’s what happens when you work hard,’” Michael laughs.
Michael plants those same kinds of seeds in his students that not only benefit their academic and personal lives, but position them better for employment opportunities.
“With a strong work ethic things become a lot easier,” says Stewart. “You are more hirable on the outside because an employer’s perception of you widens a little bit.”
He drives this point home with something he hangs in his office and writes on every classroom board: “If it is important to you, you will find a way; if not, you will find an excuse”.
Michael Stewart inspires a lot of those around him to find a way.