The school’s principal, Lynn Ann Reesman, sounded as enthusiastic about having Falk as an employee as he did about their school.
“He is absolutely a delight to work with. He has melded so well into our excellent junior high team and he has excited children about learning in a very wonderful way.
“I have been very grateful that he’s joined our staff. He also does a wonderful job of playing piano and has, on occasion, accompanied the kids at Mass, which is just a great modeling for them. He is incredibly patient and does everything he can to meet (pupils) where they’re at,” Reesman said.
As an instructor at an archdiocesan grade school, Falk is following in the footsteps of his dad, Jerry, a longtime junior high math and social studies instructor at St. Josaphat School on Milwaukee’s South Side. Michael attended that school for a while, but not long enough to have his father as a teacher. Still, the younger Falk said, “I have seen through the years the successes that my dad has when he teaches … the good he has done. I wanted a place like he had.”
He feels he’s found such a place in St. Mary Visitation.
“This,” Falk said, “is by far the best environment I ever worked in.” He added, “The kids here are bright and … I guess you could say intellectually curious.”
Falk, a West Allis resident, is an instrumentalist and choir member, among other activities, at Milwaukee’s St. Therese Parish – where his wife, Courtney, works as an administrative assistant. The couple is expecting their first child.
Falk became interested in education when he substitute taught as a graduate student at Iowa State University. Before assuming his current position he taught high school, worked as a computer programmer and spent several years as a research meteorologist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“I see the value of a Catholic education in the 21st century in being that students not only get first-rate training in academics, athletics, art and technology, but also learn the ethics and the morality inherent in a Catholic setting,” Falk wrote in a post-interview e-mail. “They learn the importance of service to others and the skills to be leaders in the church and in society. Most of all, they lead Christ-centered lives through prayer, service and their relationships with others.”
Besides teaching at St. Mary, Falk assists fellow instructors Deb Sobczak and Kylie Daemmrich with Math Olympiad (“a contest for fifth- and sixth-graders where they solve interesting and challenging math problems on their own and with their peers”) and coaches the sixth/seventh/eighth grade Quiz team – an activity somewhat akin to “Jeopardy!”
Soon after winning nearly $60,000 in his initial three-day “Jeopardy!” stint in 2006, Falk returned to participate with 14 other highly successful contestants in a two-week “Tournament of Champions.” He won an additional $250,000 and said that watching the program daily was the best way for a would-be “Jeopardy!” contestant to prepare. Falk’s success was probably genetic as well: in addition to his educator father, his mother, Gayle, is director of the Burlington Public Library.
Falk said that “Jeopardy!” contestants are not given any sort of booklet with potential questions in advance of their TV appearances. He said his winnings bought him and his wife a house and also went a long way toward repaying their student loans.