How many of us start appreciating teachers 5, 10, 20 years after leaving their classrooms?
That said, here’s my late but sincere appreciation of just a few of my teachers par excellence---ten magnificent human beings who decided (and demonstrated) that teaching is a worthy way to spend one’s life:
Thank you to:
- Mrs. Leetz, my 3rd grade teacher, for her Writing Stations. She had brightly-papered boxes stuffed with story starters. Priscilla and I (Priscilla being the protagonist in all of my stories) couldn’t get enough. Perhaps those were the seeds that led me to my degree in creative writing and that novel still in the works.
- Mr. Bergner, my 6th grade teacher, who organized an enormous community plant sale in order to take his classroom of dressed-up 10 year-olds to Mader’s German restaurant for a gourmet meal after teaching us table manners. How cool was that?
- Mr. Gaulden, my 8th grade science teacher for cumulus stratus and cirrus, which I identify often. He taught me the kinds of clouds, what they do, and why I should care (the same can be said for so many natural phenomena).
- Mrs. Gorton, my 7th grade math teacher, for naming our polynomials ACDC, REO, and other cool names and for reading us mystery stories aloud when our assignments were done, because she wanted us to be careful thinkers.
- Mr. Yach, my 9th grade English teacher, who one morning introduced us to his “illustrious” wife and thanked her “profusely” for bringing him the V8 he forgot at home. First, I thought it was amazing to catch any glimpse of a teacher’s outside life; second, I wanted to use words like that, and eventually I did.
- Mrs. Tanzer, my 11th and 12th grade English teacher, for her tangents---anecdotes so fascinating that they made me want to be a reader and a writer and a teacher; and for the attention she paid to my words---lively and lengthy commentary down the margins of my papers, not just pointing out my errors, but celebrating my ideas.
- Mr. Neau, my band teacher, who infuriated me by making me master a crazy hard fingering pattern on my oboe in one breath---because, he said, I could do it and anything less from me wasn’t “A” work. He was right.
- Dr. Boly, my uber cerebral English Lit professor, who one unsuspecting day my Junior year, declared me “brilliant” in class when we were analyzing “Musee de Beaux Arts” and I thought, hey maybe I am.
- Dr. Maguire, my controversial theology professor, who I saw as the true intersection of intellect, pragmatism and morality; who helped me articulate why I think the way I do; who made me realize that one person’s common sense is another’s controversy, a lesson I’ve repeatedly experienced and embraced, knowing that I’m in good company.
- Dr. Jay, my multicultural literature professor who tipped my thinking on its side, challenging me to examine my eurocentric education, teaching me about cultural identity, and profoundly influencing my thinking and teaching.
Here lie just a fraction of the educators who greatly impacted my formative years, who have had a lasting influence into my adulthood, and who have made me revere teaching as the noble profession it is.
Thank you, all teachers, for lives well spent.
And now, dear readers, your turn. Let’s name names: what teachers have influenced you?
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