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Letters to AHSAA

Mr. John Forssman Retires 2007

From Kirsti (Place) Minion 1995 AHS Alumna
April 26, 2007 More Letters

Click for more photos of John Forssman teacher at AHS

Dear AHS Alumni,

Mr. John Forssman (AHS English teacher) retired after a 43-year teaching career. 38 of those years have been spent here at Ames High School. He is our only AHS retiree this year, and we are putting together an iMovie presentation to show at our annual retirement breakfast later in May. Many of you were lucky enough to be in one of his classes, and we are hoping you may have some photos you can share with us to add to the slideshow. We really want to make this a special movie for Mr. Forssman! Any photos you would like to share can be email gif emailed to:

kirsti.minion (at) ames.k12.ia.us replace (at) w @

Thank you in advance,

Kirsti (Place) Minion AHS class of 1995 and AHS Media Specialist

Click to see a photo collage of Spirit yearbook photos of Mr. Forssman


AHS senior Web Staff reporter Brandon Hurley wrote a nice article about Mr. Forssman for the AHS student newspaper,

"The Web" AHS The Web Logo Ames High School

You can find the original article about Mr. Forsssman, which was published on 3/9/2007 here. The article is also below for your convenience.

Mr. Forssman meets the gold standard of teaching
By Brandon Hurley

A room with walls covered in paper may not seem very exciting to many people, but to John Forssman and his students they are a thing of beauty. These pieces of paper are not just blank sheets, they have quotes written by Ames High students. For 38 years, Forssman has brought the quotes to life while teaching English at Ames High School and he is deeply loved by many. If you ask any student that has had him as a teacher, they will tell you he is one of the more exciting teachers they have ever had.

Forssman teaches American Literature, English 10 Family and English 10 Teen, and he is exceptional in each class. "The best part of teaching is learning how to teach from students," Forssman said. For those of you who don't know, Forssman is retiring at the end of the semester after 43 years of teaching. He spent his first five years at East Waterloo and has been at Ames High ever since. "One of the things I love most about Ames High is being able to be a student again," Forssman said.

Golden Ideas are what Forssman likes to call the quotes and he has different levels for the quality of each quote. The first level of a golden idea is a gold highlighted sentence. The second level is a highlight and a single star next to the quote. A double star and a highlight is the third level. This is the level where the quote was an above average statement. And the final level is the rare triple star. A triple star is for an exceptional quote that is one of a kind. Forssman has only given a few of these throughout the years, less then 10 to be exact, that is how great the quote has to be. "Any good idea is on its way to a triple star, "he said. If you are wondering why Forssman is obsessed with putting quotes on the wall, you must understand, these are not ordinary quotes. They are reflections on poems, novels and other things done in the English classes. It takes a lot of concentration to get more than just a highlight. You have to dig deep within yourself to come up with something special. "Once an idea is born it continues to grow through expression."

For many of you right now, you may be thinking, "Why should we care about these quotes?" You should care because the quotes help the student appreciate literature more and force the student to actually read the material they are assigned. Forssman also has some other ideas that help the student become one with the literature. One of his main topics is clues. Clues help you understand what has happened and what will happen in the story. And if you ask Forssman what the master clue of a story is, he will tell you it is the title.

One of the most exciting parts of Forssman's classes is the King Arthur Roundtable discussions. The King Arthur Roundtable is where deep clue conversations are held when a book is finished. A clue conversation is a discussion of four to five people sitting around a table talking about a certain topic from a book. Many of the double stars on the wall have been created at the King Arthur Roundtable.

If you're lucky enough to currently be in one of Mr. Forssman's classes, make it your goal to get on the wall of quotes and let yourself shine at the King Arthur Roundtable. It's your last chance.


Tribute to Mr. Forssman
by Mark Lagomarcino Monday, May 14, 2007

It has been a long time since I sat in Mr. Forssman's Honors American Literature class, but even after 34 years I remember many things about it. I had always enjoyed reading, but Mr. Forssman opened the door to the very best authors and works and helped me appreciate the depth and nuance that made reading a wonderful experience. As I look back at his class I realize that we worked very hard but it didn't seem like work at the time. I would never have thought to come to class unprepared because I would never have wanted to disappoint Mr. Forssman. I spent a semester at an Ivy League college and when I was leaving I told my friends that when I arrived I was intimidated by their elite prep school backgrounds and didn't know if I was prepared well enough. They laughed and told me that they were intimidated by me as I had read more literature than anyone they had ever met. Mr. Forssman's class was the most intellectual environment I ever experienced and the lessons I learned there have served me well through these many years. Thank you Mr. Forssman.

Mark Lagomarcino
Ames High class of 1974


Web Editors note: Yes, I was one of the thousands that Mr. Forssman taught over 43 years. John Forssman was my 12th grade English teacher at Ames High School from 1973 to 1974. We could sit anywhere we liked, but for 1 year I always sat 3 rows over from the right side and 1 up from the back. I remember grudgingly reading "The Classics" and then for heavens sake, we talked about them in class, out loud! I didn't fully appreciate his teaching style until a couple decades later when my own kids attended AHS, and I was pushing for them to have, no, to experience Mr. Forssman's unique teaching abilities. A few more years passed, and almost by accident I again re-discovered "The Classics", especially John Steinbeck.  In fact, so much so that I'm heading to visit Monterey, CA and Cannery Row next week. Thank you Mr. Forssman for your patience and perseverance 30+ years ago, it is still paying off.

Ed Hendrickson Jr. AHS 1974 4/26/2007

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