Friday, June 14, 2013

To all the great teachers in my life...

Wednesday was my older kids' last day of school.  My son graduated elementary school, and will be moving on to middle school in the fall.  My middle child will be in 4th grade next year.

And this morning, my youngest graduated preschool.  She will be starting kindergarten next year.

On Wednesday, as I frantically raced all over our county trying to pull together last-minute end-of-year gifts for my kids' teachers in a 2 hour window of time (yes, I am a procrastinator....and slightly insane...), I spent my in-car time reflecting on the teachers I have had over the years and the impact they've had on my life.  Some have taught me lessons I will never forget, and they will probably never know how much they actually impacted me.

I also reflected on how much I have learned from my children's teachers over the years.  You see, this year, after an 11 1/2 year hiatus to have and raise my babies, I started school again with the intention of becoming a teacher myself.  I have tried to implement things my kids' teachers have taught me over the years of volunteering in their classrooms, but now that I am actually working toward becoming a teacher, I find it even more important to parrot the things they do and say.

So, to the teachers I have had, and my kids have had, thank you for the wise words, hard lessons, and for just being who you are and doing what you do.

To Mrs. Lucas, my senior year of high school English teacher:
I will probably never have the opportunity to tell you this to your face, but I wish I could.  I didn't understand or appreciate how hard you pushed me in high school, but I get it now.  I remember you handing me a rough draft back one time and telling me, "If you were any other student, this would be an A-worthy paper.  But you aren't.  You are a better student and a better writer than this.  You get a C for this draft.  Do it over."  You made me revise that paper 4 times.  Each time I got more frustrated, and more irritated that I just couldn't obtain that "easy A."  But in the end, I did end up getting an A.  And my paper ended up being so good that it won a 1st place county-wide award.  Like I said, I didn't understand it then, but I do now.  You wouldn't allow me to settle for less than my own capability.  You wouldn't let me skate by.  Maybe it was unfair - as I believed it was at the time - that you set up a different standard for me than the rest of the class, but you made me better.  You made me realize that my best is better than most people's best, but instead of lowering my own standard to that of others, I need to work hard to attain my own best.  So, in being so tough on me, you gave me a gift.  You made me see my own potential - the potential I didn't even see in myself - and you wouldn't let me settle for less than my best.  I thank you for that.  Truly, I believe you changed the way I view myself and my academic potential.  That is a gift you gave me that I will forever be indebted to you for.

To Dra. Maisch, my high school math teacher:
You, more than anyone, should know that math is not, and never has been, my strong suit.  But you, like Mrs. Lucas, taught me a life lesson that I will never forget or take for granted.  I shouldn't have passed your class - I went into my final with a D in your class, and then I royally bombed the test - but you passed me anyway.  Not out of the goodness of your heart or because I gained any special favor, but because you knew I was trying.  I was in your class early every morning before class officially started to get homework help.  This became our morning routine.  I was honestly shocked when you told me you were passing me, and told me I earned a passing grade.  My test scores would beg to differ.  But in passing me through, you taught me the value of hard work.  You taught me that the effort is what counts the most.  We may not naturally succeed at everything, but if we try our hardest, it will pay off.  I have passed that lesson on to my kids.  I try and teach them that its not the end result that matters, but how hard you try.  And I hope that when I am a teacher myself, I will have that philosophy with my students, as well.

To Mr. Fraise, my 4th grade teacher:
You taught me to love learning.  You taught me that fun can be found in everything, and that its okay to think outside the box.  You had the most unorthodox teaching methods, but they worked for us.  You never shot down our ideas, and in fact, you would take our crazy ideas and run with them.  Its rare to find a teacher who says "yes" more than they say "no" to their students' crazy ideas.  (Especially now that teachers are taught primarily to cram standardized curriculum into their students at breakneck speed.)  Through the freedom to be different, think different, and do different, I gained a confidence in my own ability to use my uniqueness to problem-solve and impact the world around me.  You are the type of teacher I want to be.  I want to be the type of teacher who inspires her students to use their creativity; a teacher who says "yes" to crazy ideas and finds ways to work them into their teaching.

To Ms. Glasson, both my kids' 3rd grade teacher:
You are amazing!  You have gone above and beyond the call of duty for both my kids, and all your students.  I enjoyed being a parent volunteer in your classroom, and I hope I retain even half of what I learned about how to teach from you.  You love what you do, you love your students, and it shows.  I don't even have the words to express how thankful I am for the experiences both my kids, and I, had in your classroom.  You are exceptional!

To Bill Patterson, my college philosophy teacher:
You, like Mrs. Lucas, made me work for my A and wouldn't let me just coast by.  You made me think, you made me work, and because of what you taught and how you taught it, you made me a better person.  Your class changed a lot about how I view myself, my world, and the people in my world.  There's truly no greater gift a teacher could give their student than that.

And last, but definitely not least, to my dad, Russell Terry, retired special education teacher:
It is because of you that I want to be a teacher in the first place.  Watching you do what you did with your students, and do it so well, and love it so much, has been a life-long inspiration.  Its funny...  I found my Kindergarten Memories book at your house at Christmastime and there was a page in there that asked what I wanted to be when I grow up.  I wrote that I wanted to be a teacher.  That is because of you.  You were my first, and have always been my best, teacher.

There are so many other teachers worth mentioning.  Nobody should think for a second that the list starts and ends here!  I have been so blessed to have had the teachers I've had.  Sure, everyone (myself included) has a few they don't click with, but by and large, the teachers I have had have throughout my life have been pretty phenomenal.  And my kids have had phenomenal teachers themselves, as well.

It makes me sad that our education system is struggling in so many ways, and that a lot of people take out their frustrations on teachers for that.  Because people like these don't deserve that.

But it gives me hope to see that, despite all the challenges, good teachers will continue to teach, and inspire, and change lives.  Because that is what it is all about.

What about you?  Have you (or your children) had any teachers that have been exceptional or have changed your life in some way?  Give them a shout out!