(by Andrew McFarlane) Former Leland teacher Ed Wodek recently passed away. In 2008, I got to spend some time photographing the tremendously engaging process he created to make elections real for not only his government class students, but for students from across the region.

For years, Ed brought real candidates for office to the school, had students deliver speeches on the behalf of candidates, and had them run the voting process. It would be incredible for all students in this country to have exeriences like this, and I’m glad my children did.

His obituary reads in part:

Ed was born on April 15th, 1957 in Petoskey, one of four children born to Jack and Stella Wodek. He received his Bachelors of Science and Education degree from Central Michigan University. Ed’s teaching career first began at St. Francis High School (1980 to 1985). He then started teaching at Leland Public Schools in 1985 and had continued educating there for the last 31 years.

Ed’s outgoing personality was truly a force to reckon with. He was not only approachable and kind-hearted, but his energetic spirit and love of life made you want to know him. He had a contagious charisma that brought excitement to whomever he was around. When Ed entered the room, you knew it and you felt his presence. Family was ultimately the most important part of his life. He always put family first, no matter what. Ed also had a strong passion and love for teaching. His ability to inspire students in the classroom is a legacy that will forever live on through anyone who knew “Wodes.” Ed was a brilliant musician. Starting at the age of 8, he began playing the drums professionally. He devoted his gift to the Rotary Show for the last 33 years. When Ed sat at a piano, he could make a room come alive, even without a sheet of music to read. His other hobbies consisted of golfing, fishing, cooking and debating politics with the best. Ed’s spirit will be remembered in so many different aspects of our daily lives, he will be deeply missed and forever loved.

click photos for a larger view