A spontaneous late night sushi meal with a friend a few weeks ago led to a passionate conversation about teachers. Prompted by the stories of the heroic acts of the teachers from the Sandy Hook events, we recounted some of our favorite teachers.
I can’t tell you what I wore on any given day last week, yet I can easily tell you details about some of my favorite teachers from twenty plus years ago. Miss O’Rourke was one of the “cool” teachers that I had in high school. She didn’t fit the mold of the other, more conservative, teachers in the school, particularly the nuns. She was different, a bit of a rebel, marching to the beat of her own drummer, and I loved going to her class. She listened. She heard. And she taught from the heart.
I will forever be grateful to Sister Jude, a grammar school teacher, for igniting my love for English class and the written word. She was no-nonsense, for sure, but she had such a young and vivacious spirit that you couldn’t help but be inspired. She had a pretty tough-as-nails exterior, but she was warm and caring.
Not all teachers stand out. And for a variety of reasons, they won’t. But oh how lucky we are for the ones that do. The ones that leave such a positive imprint on our memories and hearts that we are forever changed.
When we find a teacher like that in our kids’ classrooms, as parents, we are buoyed. Grateful. Thankful. Because we know that teacher is shaping the person that our kids will become. We know that in 20 years, when the kids have long since moved on, memories of this teacher will be recounted with fondness. It might be a special interest that the teacher took in our child. Or the way the teacher thought of their students as their kids. Or that they had such passion for the subject that they taught, that they ignited the same passion in our own child.
In his time in school so far, Nick has been lucky enough to have four teachers who have shaped who he is, and who he is fast becoming.
His kindergarten teacher was such an amazing, amazing introduction to school. She was silly, and eccentric, and just the most absolutely perfect way to start your child’s school career. She, unfortunately, retired a few years ago, and I’m sorry that Madeline won’t be able to have the chance to spend time with her.
After a challenging third grade year with a teacher that I would like to forget, Nick’s fourth grade teacher reignited his love for school. And math. He loved going to school every day, knowing that he had a teacher who loved to be there. At that time, that was Mrs. D’s 8th year teaching fourth grade and you could tell how much she loved it. And it was no wonder that the kids in that room responded so favorably to her, and to anything she taught. She sparked Nick’s love for math, and I am forever grateful for her, and that she showed him what it meant when a teacher was in his corner.
He has had a science teacher, Dr. K., for the past three years that has transferred his obvious love for the subject down to his students. And it’s such a joy to hear Nick talk about the teacher, his class, and what they’re learning. I just signed a permission slip for Nick to dissect preserved sheep’s eyes, and I can’t even begin to tell you how excited he is. Um, ick. I could barely handle frog’s in high school biology.
And this year, Nick has been lucky enough to have another inspirational teacher. Not in homeroom (although we love her too). Not in any of his daily classes. This last teacher, Mr. L., does after-school classes that the kids can sign up for. The school offers them in a variety of subjects, outside of the regular curriculum and for an additional charge, and Nick doesn’t care what Mr. L. is teaching. He just wants to be there to learn. And really, how do you say no to that? You don’t. Last semester, it was a science-based class. This next semester it leans more towards electronics (they are currently building a functional robot). When I pick him up at the end of the day, after their weekly enrichment class, Nick is bursting with enthusiasm and can’t wait to tell me what project they worked on.
When a teacher gives up. Or checks out. Or whose heart is not in what they’re doing. You can tell. Right away. And the kids suffer for it. We’ve had one teacher like that, and my heart broke for Nick that year and we just bided our time until the end. Unfortunately, it happens.
But when you get an amazing teacher like one of these that we’ve had? It’s just magical. As my friend and I talked about, these teachers are inspiring our kids, fueling their love for education, and your kids just want to be there to soak it all up. And they are so better for it. As Nick’s interests and strengths emerge in Math and Science, and continue to grow year after year, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s where his future endeavors and career paths lie.
And we will have these teachers to thank for it.
Thank you for loving what you do. And for passing that down to our kids. And for loving them like your own.
I am forever grateful.
And so said the handwritten cards I sent in to these teachers recently. Telling them how much they have inspired my children is the very least I can do.
Have you thanked a teacher recently?