Polish up your apples. This upcoming Tuesday (May 3) is Teacher Appreciation Day. I want to hear anecdotes about the teachers who have influenced you for the good–who have helped shape you into the productive citizens that you are today.
A while back I posted about my fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Romero. She was a lovely woman with a gift for seeing what was lovely in every fourth-grader she ever knew. Each child in Mrs. Romero’s class believed himself to be her favorite (which amused me, since I actually was). In case you missed it the first time, here’s the link to the story in which Mrs. Romero scandalized me with her treatment of the school bully.
Let’s hear those stories about great teachers. And then maybe we can all get out construction paper and make cards for them.
Entering ninth grade, the rumors swirled about our tough-as-nails, be-glad-if-you-get-25%-on-her-tests science teacher. She had shoulder surgery during the summer and missed the first nine weeks, but then, there she was, as intimidating and serious as promised. A former tennis star, she now swam before school to rehab her shoulder. I was swimming after school for exercise, and my dad suggested that I start swimming before school and let my science teacher drive me to school each morning. WHAT??
I did it. And I taught her how to do a flip turn for which she, who could fly a plane that she rebuilt herself, was deeply grateful. There was a sweetness in sometimes being the intimidated, average student and sometimes being the patient, excellent flip turn teacher.
Oh, and this from my first year of teaching (seniors at Antioch High School—Go Bears!) . . . the students were talking about their after-school jobs at the mall. One turned to me and said, “Do you have a job?” Umm, I get here at 6 A.M., teach in a trailer, have 150 students, and am pretty much mainlining Diet Mountain Dew to stay afloat. Yea, I have a job. How’s that for teacher appreciation?
Here’s my apple. Last semester I had an English teacher that appreciated literature. I know that appears to be a “duh,” but most teachers I get don’t really seem to care about the material they are teaching. This teacher was in love with it. Whenever we started a new book she would read it along with us (even though she’d read it a million times already). She would encourage us to make our own opinions about the book, instead of try to shape our ideas into ones that would get us the “correct” answers. She would actively participate in our conversations and while we were learning from her, she was learning from US–excitedly finding new ideas in the things we said. And she gave me helpful criticism on my writing, unlike previous teachers who just handed me a grade. I love English enough as it is, but she renewed my enthusiasm. Basically, she rocked. And then, nearing the end of the semester, she had to move and switch jobs. I was in mourning for a week.
I had some lovely teachers. Mrs. Carricker, fourth grade, taught me to love poetry (don’t laugh–I love children’s poetry), Mrs. Runyan, tenth grade PE, was probably the first teacher to treat me like an equal and a friend, but Miss Darling, third grade, was my favorite teacher ever.
Her name fit her perfectly. James Frey says “A petite, delicate, golden-haired girl with big blue eyes grows up with a completely different set of expectations about what she’s going to get out of life than her needle-nosed, bug-eyed sister.” (How to Write a Damn Good Novel) And I think that a girl with a name like Emma Darling grows up with different expectations than a girl with a name like Cruella De Vil. Miss Darling was kind and happy and a Christian.
Miss Darling would catch my eye and grin when I’d make a mistake that she and I knew about but no one else had caught. I knew she liked me, because she shared the secret with me. There was no public humiliation in her class. I don’t know if she did this with the other children, but I always felt like I was sharing in inside joke with her.
Probably she was like your Mrs. Romero, Jonathan, and I just never discovered she had inside jokes with everyone else, too.
What a great story.
Of course, I’m sure the old guy was thrilled that he could call forth love from a brilliant young student. Thank God he was wise and had some integrity or your story might not have ended well.