Mr Wood

If you need to reach Mr.Wood – call 616-402-8668 or email me at 

Please check this link for an January 1, 2012 update on Mr. Wood.  And this link to meet my mom.

Here’s my story.  Written in September 2009.

I grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan and had just about as good of a childhood as you could ask for. It was Beaver Cleaver times. Dad worked days at General Motors on the assembly line, mom stayed home raised the kids (me, Amy and Andy), did the wash, cleaned house, and drove us to ball games. Lunch was at noon – sandwiches cut diagonally, a bowl of tomato soup in-between, chips and pickle on the side, and a big fat glass of milk. Dinner was at 5:00 sharp, everybody at the kitchen table, and youbetter be on time. I ran around the neighborhood, road my bike all over town, playedLittle League baseball, and did all my schoolwork on time. At Loy Norrix High I lettered in baseball and football, made the honor roll, and had a whole lotta fun. I graduated in 1975 – same year that the Vietnam War ended. Back then I couldn’t have found Vietnam on a world map – and I really could’t have cared to.

College, for the first couple of years was an absolute mess. I took classes at Western, lived at home, went back to the old parties, the old friends, the old high school football games and hated it. So I quit my scholarship. I got a factory job, saved my paychecks, and in two years transferred to State and became a Spartan. Life was good! I graduated in 1980 with a History Education major into an economy – believe it or not – worse than it is now. With no Michigan jobs out there, I threw a dart at the map, it landed in Seattle. So I loaded up the Pinto and headed off out West.

Seattle is gorgeous. It’s diverse and energetic, great music, bright lites, on a sunny day it doesn’t get much better. But it rains and it rains and its rains. I stayed for six years. I met great people. Coaching football and basketball and teaching World and US History to ninth graders, for the first time in my life, I realized that I really loved toteach.

About that time I was able to take on a lifelong dream. I had always wanted to spend a summer and go all 26 Major League Baseball Parks. I loved baseball. I grew up box scoring every Detroit Tiger game since I could find Ernie Harwell on the dial. In 1978 my buddy and me drove to Boston for a weekend Yankees Red Sox series. For four nights we lived on the Landsdown Street sidewalk outside of Fenway and spent the days in bleachers with the crazies. Ever since I’ve been a Bosox fan. So in 1985 on my fifth teacher summer, I finally did it, I drove 13,000 miles in a 2 month voyage to all 26 ballparks. I wrote a book about it – Dodger Dogs to Fenway Franks published by McGraw Hill in 1988. And I became a celebrity; ESPN, CBS Morning Show, even Letterman. So I wrote a second book, another trip in the Fall of 1989 to a football game at every Big Ten campus. “Big Ten Country” is a story about all the color that surrounds those Saturday afternoons. Again, I did the promo circuit – TV, radio, and newspaper interviews. But I missed teaching. So I retired from writing and returned to the classroom. I got a job at Muskegon Oakridge – back home in Michigan.

I’ve taught at Oakridge now for 18 years. I love my job. Dealing with young people exploring the world, having an impact with those who will shape this nation’s future – how could you not love it. Whenever somebody asks what I like best about my job I have two answers. The first; teaching keeps me fresh. In order to be a good social studies teacher you have to stay on top of the world, follow the news, read the Times every day, take on ideas and search the places that before were foreign. And that, I love to do. Also, no career has such an impact on this planet as does a teacher’s. My students must learn about this world and then act as they see fit on that knowledge. It’s my job to inspire them to inspire themselves. That is a pretty good lifelong obligation.

And of course – I still get those summers off. In 1995 my life changed dramatically. I bought a backpack and a five week train pass and spent the summer- traveling all over Europe. I was 37 – it was my very first passport stamp. In 1997 I went back to Eastern Europe for six more weeks. And I’ve been out there ever since. Russia and Ukraine, Poland, Budapest, Istanbul, and the Czech Republic and Cuba.   Traveling the world has had an enormous impact on my life. I read more. I look past the easy answers and dig deeper for the truth. I pay more attention to things that really matter. I question the policies of my government because I have that responsibility as an American citizen. I am a participant in issues of the world – travel does that to you.


Then in 2006 I went to Africa. Seven weeks in Morocco and Mali on a Fulbright Scholarship, traveling to sub Saharan Africa sunk deep into my bones. Mali was intense; everything – the heat, the poverty, the laughter, life and death. To see so many people, scores of children in such dire poverty, yet with a real zest for life, after experiencing Mali I decided I don’t really have a right to bitch about any of my life’s minor complications? I returned from Mali a better teacher, I hope a changed man. I teach now with more purpose; I want my students not to have to wait until they are 37 to “awaken” to the world.

And so that leads us to today. I’m not optimistic about the future. Pain and suffering continue unabated across the continents. We don’t seem any closer to heading off world poverty than wewere a generation ago. Even with all of the cures of the globe at our fingertips, disease spreads like grassfire through out the third world. The rich continue to consume everything they get their hands on, natural resources included. Wars for oil, for power and greed, swarm the planet …and the US is knee deep in the mess. Environmental disaster looms, yet no first world governments, certainly not ours, seems willing to do much about it. My generation has dropped the ball. We have willed to our children a world less fruitful for the things that matter than the one we inherited from our parents.

Even so, I hold a sliver of hope, a cry from Pandora’s box, that maybe we may yet stop the bleeding. I’m convinced that chance lies in the classroom the world over – in Spain and Moscow, up in Canada, in Ghana and Tokyo and Bejing…and classrooms in Muskegon, Michigan on the corner of Hall and Wolf Lake Road.

There are Oakridge kids who sit in my class today, who “get it.” There are others on the verge. You all have proven that to me time
and time again; at Close Up in DC when you challenged Congressman Hoekstra’s religiously biased views on gay rights and his nonchalance at the tremendous cost of college tuition, in the Super Duper Club when we trekked down to the Democratic HQ in Lansing and demanded equal justice for all Americans, at Hackley Park with your A.C.T! picket signs and marching across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma Alabama, this Fall in during Election when you all volunteered a total of 711 hours, and every single day you ask a question that cuts through the crap, that challenges the facade of what is real in this world.

So many more young people, than when I was a teen, see the future for what it is. You realize that you must take on the challenges that lie ahead, that “your” world is hooked into “their” world. I think many of you agree with Barack Obama when he says, “I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper” and that you know you have an obligation that goes beyond you alone. And I think you know the consequences of continued indifference. I think you realize if you don’t act, that your kids, and children across the oceans, may inherit a world that is totally broken beyond repair.


It is this realization, my trust in you, that gives me pause to think hard about the words of Dr. King when he said, “the arc of the morale universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” It isn’t god’s will or government’s job to shape this planet and bend that arc. It is my responsibility, and yours; mine as a teacher, yours as a student. We, as world citizens, must do the bending. We must dedicate our souls to do whatever possible to leave this planet a better, healthier, more compassionate place than we found it.

That is our challenge.


PS… This summer a baseball fan from Texas by the name of James Crabtree, who read “Dodger Dogs to Fenway Franks” when he was a kid, dug me up at Oakridge – and he wrote an article on the search, the book, and me. Take a look here – James did a nice job.


40 Responses to Mr Wood

  1. Rebecca Ashley Houseman (the hippie girl in your 2nd hour...)

    You should post a blog about Bob Marley, since we didn’t get to talk about him on his birthday. 🙁

    nice idea hippie…if you come across a good Bob Marley article give it a post. mrw

  2. Rachel Bunker

    Well what is there to say about Mr. Wood. You can’t really sum him up in one about me section.
    You need like a whole network.
    He’s CRAZY.
    He’s very truthful, blunt and a Bob Marly lover.
    If you don’t like he don’t care but you still have to put up with him so you might as well get over it.
    He looks like a hard head (there’s another word but I don’t think I can use it) but he really does care. He’ll help you out as much as he can.
    He knows almost about everything and if he doesn’t he’ll soon learn about it. I mean who knew about SUPER delegates first.
    He has probably been everywhere around the world. Loves knew and different things.

    Well I think I summed him up pretty good.
    For only a couple of lines.

  3. Geoff Eely

    Check out Mr. Wood on Wikipedia. I would give you all a link to click on but I’m not real sure how to do all that fancy stuff.

  4. Mr. Lohman

    I learned about Kiva loans from Mr. Wood and now I give a small loan every Saturday morning with my coffee. What a great way to start the weekend.
    Thanks Mr. Wood.

  5. Dennis Bates

    I just looked at the Wikipedia page, I think that you need to do another book and come out of hiding. The books are pretty intresting, you should have made more out of the publishing deal. Why don’t they have the book on football or did I miss that?

  6. H. Strang

    Mr. Wood’s first part says “An super exciting update about Mr. Wood on the way.” I just wanted to point out that “an” is used before words that began with vowels, and s is not a vowel… but that’s ok Mr. Wood you are still my favorite teacher ever!

    sorry dilary doo, it will be changed. I’ve already docked myself five points.

  7. S. Lang

    I had no idea you went missing Mr.Wood.
    This was bizarre to

  8. Sam is right…this WAS bizarre! Apparently you’re “living in obscurity in the midwest.” That’s kind of funny.

    And Tabatha, calm down. It will all be okay in the end!

  9. Austin Stordahl

    How to explain Mr. Wood?
    Well Mr. Wood is the only teacher in our school that cares about something more than friday nights. He gives us a lot of work yes but its not so we can hate him its cause he wants us to learn. Other teachers don’t give a lot of work and when they do it just little worksheets because they are too lazy to correct it.
    Mr. Wood wouldn’t make this blog(that takes a lot of time)and stay after school everyday until 5 if he didn’t care about our future and the future of America.
    Thank you Mr. Wood

  10. Becca Hall

    This here is what I would like to call Mr. Wood in a nutshell….

    He’s the teacher who will stay after school until 6 o’clock at night and still be the most unorganized person in the building. His ability to lose things is mind boggling. His lectures motivate you to not only open your eyes to what it is he’s teaching, but everything around you. He makes you think. I’ve never met anyone so adamant about what they teach, and that attitude is contagious. He’s known for kicking someone out of class and yelling at them in the hallway, and then walking back into class with a smile on his face. That’s what he calls fun. He tells young innocent kids that the poster of Vladimir Lelin hanging in his room is actually a picture of Jesus, and that with some good anti-depressants, Lenin and Hitler would have been pretty good guys. To sum him up in one word is pretty much impossible, but I can tell you this. HE’S CRAZY!!

  11. Mr. Wood is the coolest guy in the world (well, besides Jimmy Page. And maybe Obama). That’s what the autobiography should say.

    Go Northern Michigan University Huskies!

  12. Alexandra Ickes

    Just thought i would thank you for putting so much of your life into teaching us how to become productive adults. Not only in going to college and getting good jobs but for insipering me among many others to actually do something that will make a difference in other peoples lives =]

    Thanks Lexi. It’s an investment – it’s my planet too, that you’re going to fix! I’m glad I start the day with you…and ocassionally your friend when she decides to wake up on time.

  13. ..Charity..

    I absolutely love your family photo….it makes me smile. And the picture of you young is almost incomprehensible. Is that Bob? And whose dog?

    my dog, my brother, my hair. Thanks.


    You are so very welcome……

  15. Brittney Vander Laan

    Oh gosh Mr.Wood. I love the picture of you when you were younger.HAHA. Oh and by the way i love how you comment Lexi and say,” I’m glad I start the day with you…and ocassionally your friend when she decides to wake up on time.” pssh I’m always there on time I’ve only missed one day…The fourth day of school. HAHA.and this year you get to see me bright and early every morning. Gosh, what a way to start the day.

    What happend to us starting the day off with Meditating?? i was so excited!

    We will be patient grasshopper. But this electoral college stuff is just toooooooo interesting to put on the back shelf. Don’t you think?

  16. Kassi Hanchi

    Wow I really didn’t know your background. It just goes to show you any one can change. You went from being a blind partying highschooler and college boy to an awake man with ambitions and hopes for future generations. And that article on your book. Amazing. I loved it. It made me look at a few things much differently. Thank you for sharing that. And thank you for opening our eyes. I enjoy your lectures more than anyones. And I honestly do appreciate it.

    Thank you.

    Thank you so much.

  17. K. Perryman

    I was looking more into the books you wrote. I noticed the 20th anniversary for Dodger Dogs to Fenway Franks. You should write a book on your visits to other cultures. It really would be interesting to read about what goes on in other countries from another person’s viewpoint.

  18. A. McNerney

    I had no idea that you went to the Auschwitz Concentration Camps! I just got done looking at the pictures you have on the website!! How come you have never talked about this trip before!!??


  19. Jennifer Martz 5th Hour

    Mr Wood, Could you make a file on your blog that is only for extra credit. That way it would be easier to find all the extra credit insted of trying to find/ remember them. I would really appreicate it. Thanks Jenn

  20. Shoop 2nd Hour

    Mr. Wood, I found it interesting that you traveled to all 25 ball parks. I like baseball. I think it is very cool that you wrote books and had them published.

    Thanks. Who you picking in the Series this year? Have you been to Wrigley Field?

  21. Sergeant Steven Kowalkowski

    Mr. Wood????

    Let me tell you a little bit about the inspiration and the drive that Mr. Wood instills and entrusts with his young students. For me he was a complete hero. In 1995 when I first took his Geography Class (that is what they called it then) I failed. And over that summer thru the sweat and pain that my parents forced upon me, I returned to that class with a different drive in mind. I returned with the drive to get inside Mr. Wood’s mind and find out truly where he was coming from in his teachings. So through-out the following school year while I was re-taking his Geography class (with Mr. Ryan Updyke AGAIN!!) I sat and I actually paid attention, and learned and asked tons, upon tons, upon tons of questions. It was honestly a life-altering experience for me.

    Upon graduation from high-school and the loss of enthusiasm to expand on my education, I decided to join the United States Army and be a part of something bigger, and in doing so, I also came to be quite the World Traveller as he put it back then. I used his tips and his knowledge and his love to move out into the world and be curious to say the least.

    Almost 10 years now and nothing has changed. I am still seeing wonderful things and meeting new people every day. I have a German Frau (wife) and many other international friends on top of that. I have visited many countries, 16 in total, some good and some bad (to say the least) which comes as a given thing with military life now-a-days. These will be countries that I never visit again until the military presence is narrowed and the borders are secured.

    But I will tell you one thing. I can honestly say that I would have never done any of this without the guidance and passion that Mr. Bob Wood influenced upon me when I was a child. And I thank him for that every time I see something new in the world.

    Thank you Mr. Wood! I will stop by and visit the classroom and the school real soon.

    Return E-Mail is: steven.

  22. Jennifer Stratton

    MR. Wood,

    It has been a few years from the first time I have been in your class. I can reamber sitting in your class and wishing that I was out of school. However, it was not until later that I realized that your words have impacted me.

    I have been out of high school for over 5 years now. I have a degree that I am not using and never plan to. However, with that I realized that now more than ever I want to become an educator. You always told us to never give up and follow your dreams. Now I am working towards a degree in Elementary Education and am a sub teacher.

    What can I say, I now look forward to going to work and can’t wait for the adventure to start. I am positive about my future and plan on trying to influence the lifes of my future students just like you have for many others.

    Thank-you for all you do,
    Jennifer Stratton

  23. Kaily Parks

    Hey Mr. Wood, Just listened to the Podcast they sound great.

    P.S. I am still with my high school boyfriend and if you want to make a relationship work and you have a strong relationship it will work!

  24. Jamie Minor

    Very cool Mr. Wood. I remember when you first started teaching at Oakridge. I was in your psycology class and you had big ideas then. I was not easy to teach (what teenager who knows everything is) but, believe it or not, you were probably one of the most influential people in my life. You always taught us to have an open mind, stay true to ourselves and help other people.

    My grandpa loved his autographed copies of your books and kept them in his bedside bookshelf until the day he died. I am now saving them for my son, who will hopefully have you as a teacher very soon. Keep loving life and teaching our children every lesson that you have learned, they will need it in today’s world.

    Thank you for not giving up

  25. Mindy Carrick

    Thanks to the oakridge echos, i am now stalking you.

    I won’t tell Mr. Green.

  26. Well i just got done reading your autobiography. It is very interesting. I think i judged you way to quickly and i’m sorry for that. You are a little crazy, but its the crazy that makes everyone laugh and actually think about this messed up world. I just wanted to tell you that i maybe and i’m saying maybe am starting to like going to your class. Don’t take that to heart though, i said maybe.

    I will take maybe as a good thing. Thanks. I’m beginning, and don’t take this the wrong way, beginning to sort of like going to class too. Just sort of.

  27. SPC Kratochvil, Tal

    i learned alot from my wood even though i didnt really pay much attention in his class. and mr wood state sucks go U of M

  28. Julie Wilde

    Mr. Wood,
    I have to tell you I have read all of the above comments and I am floored~forgive me but I am still laughing about Rebecca Hall’s comments (for which you have exactly 15 days before 1 year to respond to her comments). I don’t know you like my daughter has gotten to know you the last two years, but it has been interesting. You have certainly taken part in life! I can appreciate what you do as a teacher and the extra miles you will go, as I am about to mention.
    You and your group of teachers and students are down in Selma, Alabama probably getting ready to settle in for the night. Right now I am waiting to read the blog that Charity and Mrs. Carlson are supposed to post tonight. (I hope Charity will forgive me for those immunizations for college she had the day before the trip) I don’t have to go into details, you know! I hope she forgives me for posting this too.
    I have a Q. for you.
    Since you have been many places and you have experienced many things what are some of your future travel goals and challenges that may go with your plans?

    Thank you for your time Mr. Wood.

  29. Upon reading your autobiography, you sound like a learned educator and a positive mentor to Oakridge High students. Epictetus, a Greek Stoic philosopher once said, “only the educated are free.” True freedom can only be attained through knowledge. Thank you for investing in our youth and ensuring freedom to future generations.

    Jonathan L. Britton

  30. Kaci

    I must say that Mr. Wood was one of the best teacher’s I’ve ever had in high school. I think that if I didn’t start paying attention to the news back then I would never be prepared for what I’m dealing with now.


    My pleasure deary.

  31. Jillian

    What name do you call a teacher after you graduate high school? I never thought I would struggle with that question!

    Quick to forget those 12 years of depression, I thought I would easily forget my high school teachers and only think of them as Mrs. So-and-So who had some quirky behavior or Mr. who seemed to make everyone’s lives miserable.

    Although I have since gained respect for my high school education and those who have guided me through my learning experience, I never thought I would interact with any of my high school teachers beyond graduation. But, who could ever forget Mr. Wood! (and would he ever let you forget him?)

    He can see your potential when you cannot. He pushes you to believe in that potential and gives you strength and encouragement to reach your goals. He forces you to face your fears and do better even if that means you may dislike him for a while. He is a phenomenal teacher and a wonderful friend.

    My relationship with Mr. Wood continues beyond high school. He continues to be an important mentor, a constant inspiration, and more importantly a friend for life.

    So, what do you call a teacher after high school? When they are no longer your teacher, but your friend? I call him Bob.

    Thank You Bob!

  32. Jamie Russell

    Holy Cow Mr. Wood you have your own web page!!! I will never forget having you for a teacher way back when( I dont want to think that far back). And how you cared enough about me to come to my house to teach me when I couldnt come to school, but I do try to forget the whole Ross Perot thing. lol Keep up the great work and I surely hope your still around when my kids get in high school:)

  33. J. Keiser

    Bob: What a fantastic Blog- I stumbled upon it –
    I see you are still changing lives and inspiring young minds- We will have to get together and share stories. I have spent some time in Africa & China. The images you posted, things I have seen too… does change you!
    For me, my biggest regret is that it took so long for me to discover “the world”. You can’t really understand it ALL until you have witnessed it!
    Have a great summer and enjoy your travels.
    Congratulations on receiving the James Madison Scholarship! J. Keiser
    Jenny Keiser it’s so good to hear from YOU. Where have you been??????? Let’s go get a cup of coffee! 616-402-8668 – as for taking a long time to WAKE UP – you got there early…I was 35. See you soon.

  34. Marcie (Lathrop) Barber

    Mr. Wood,

    My mom forwarded the Oakridge Echoes to me when she was finished with it.

    Congratulations on winning the James Madison Fellowship!

    I’m working on my second graduate degree, and I’ve had so many teachers over the years. There are 3 teachers that have had a remarkable impact on my life. Only one teacher changed the way I view the world (and myself within it)! Thank you for that.

    ~Marcie Barber DVM (that’s a V in the middle, not a U)

    I am honored. Thank you. The world is honored for your participation.

  35. kari pnacek

    A little late but:

    Oh Woodhead,
    Blogs, wikipedia and a fellowship, you are too cool for your own good!
    I should have known you are as important to the rest of the world as you are to your students. Thank you for daring me to dream big and for showing all of us that there is a larger world outside our little town. Teaching activism to youth doesn’t happen very often, but it is a passion, skill and dedication that has shaped my whole life. Too often we float through the system, but never dare to change it. You taught me it is a necessity to do so! Thank you for supporting me then, and now!

    Kari Pnacek
    Oh Kari Pnacek you never were and never will be a floater through the system. Well, maybe as an inebriated cheerleader in Mr Barry’s class. thanks for the kind words – I just love you. I don’t know if I’ve ever met a kid – you’re not a kid anymore I guess – with such spunk – just just got fire in your belly. You are the hope that this broken nation has. You and my students marching up to Lansing. What my generation has and still is doing to this country is so troubling. Look – we got androids tuning into Glen Beck and Bill O’Reilly – take their marching orders and spreading mindless hate and a lot of ignorance….we won’t find a decent answer to 50 million Americans without health care. We won’t turn the cost of college around. We will continue to fight wars all over the planet…then we will congratulate ourselves for being patriotic and toss another five trillion in debt at the next generation. I guess what troubles me the most – even more than absolute ignorance of so many who would rather be told the truth than learn it for themselves – is the fact that we really don’t care about our neighbors – particularly if they are poor. Was it Dickens who said you evaluate your society on how it treats those most in need. Well, if that is the case then we are a broken society. Keep fighting. Kids like you give me hope. Thanks.

  36. Boomba!!

    Hey Mr. Wood
    How are you?
    How are things at oakridge?
    Are you still scaring the exchange students?? I really hope they can keep up with you!!
    I heard about the meeting you had with the new exchange students, I hope it went well.
    Well, I have to disappoint you because I haven’t had one of the bis sausages since I have been back, but I had lots and lots of dumplings!!! *g*
    Do you already know where you are going to go next year for your stipendium??
    I am going to visit you next year and my parents are probably going to go with me but that’s not sure yet.
    so, well bye!!

    Kerstin Bomba

    Booooooooomba have you finally learned German again. I hope so for god’s sake. And I cannot believe you aren’t munching down those giant sausages…what did you do for Oktoberfest?????? So good to hear from you. How is school? I am trying to scare all the foreign exchange students that I can. Stay in touch – keep pounding down the dumplings.

  37. Shelby C

    I thought you might be interested in this.

    Thank you deary.

  38. I was wondering if you could put up an election thread for this year. I’d like to see peoples opinions on the different candidates. I can’t seem to contact you through email either or else I would have emailed this request. It is an election year, I hope to inspire some argument that requires serious thought. The guys have started advertising, let get some actual information out there before it’s a two party or person race.

    Ben – good to hear from you. What are you doing? Where are you? It’s good to hear that you’re involved. Are you at MCC? Health Care bill? email me.

  39. Robert Long

    Hi. Here are some books I’d like to recommend to you that I enjoy about baseball…Cult Baseball, Sand Coufax: A Lefty’s Legacy, Rocky Colavito and the Curse of the Cleveland Indians, 1964 by David Haverstam. Also, I enjoy the book about Joe Dunn Looney called Third and Forever. My favorite columnist of all time is Joe Falls. My favorite baseball announcers of all time are Harray Carey and Jerry Pearsoel. My favorite present day announcer is Ken Harrelson. If I could go back in time, I’d go back to the 1950’s and see games in all three NY ballparks. I bought your book and loved it, but I lent it out and they never returned it.

  40. Mike Taylor

    Mr. Wood,
    Your writings that you have given us are inspirational.
    Please do one more… a great topic would be …
    “Parkwood to the Penthouse – The Story and Adventures of the Taylor and Drake Boys”.

    You are the only one who could pull it off.

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