Arthur’s own Mike Franklin one of the Lindback Foundation winners

Arthur’s Mike Franklin was 1 of 60 Philadelphia School District teachers honored on May 3rd by the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation with $3,500 prizes for excellence in teaching.

The foundation has awarded more than $3 million to city educators since 2008; it has expanded its reach to honor elementary and middle school as well as high school teachers this year.

Recognizing extraordinary educators operating in challenging circumstances is critical, said David Loder, a Lindback trustee. “All of us need to recognize that the Philadelphia public schools are serving an incredibly important function, and there are some incredibly good teachers and things going on in those schools,” Loder said.

“I fell in love with the idea of teaching kids” - Michael Franklin

The nation’s first civil engineering club for middle school students as certified by the American Society of Civil Engineers is at Chester Arthur Elementary, a neighborhood school at 20th and Catharine Streets.

It’s there because of Michael Franklin, a science, technology, engineering, and math teacher passionate about his work. In his eight years of teaching, Franklin has helped transform Arthur into a laboratory of innovation where even kindergartners have meaningful lessons in STEM. That is a buzzword in education these days but something Franklin lives and breathes, from the maker space in his classroom to the outdoor lab, a playground that doubles as a thriving teaching space, complete with sundial, raised garden, and 50-meter track.

“My goal is to open kids’ eyes that this stuff is all around,” Franklin said. “I want to give them the opportunity to do something really big. I want them all to have opportunities.”

Once bound to be a mechanical engineer himself, Franklin shifted course as a Drexel University student when he mentored a fourth grader named Joe.

“I fell in love with the idea of teaching kids,” Franklin said.

He still loves it, from the classroom work to the after-school clubs -- the civil engineering kids, the LEGO robotics kids.

And though the hours are long and the pay is a challenge -- any possible salary increase frozen amid a district contract stalemate, Franklin must work a weekend job to make ends meet -- it remains a joy, he said, lighting up at the remembrance of two former students who are headed to college to study engineering.

“That’s the reason I do what I do,” Franklin said. “If I quit right now, my career would have been a success.”