Teachers are influential people in student and adult lives. When we first started in education we were all inspired or impacted by another teacher that led us down the path that we are on today. In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, we wanted to share the stories of the teachers who helped shape us into the educators we are today.
I have been very fortunate in my educational career to have many teachers that worked so hard to ensure my success. But I have two teachers that stand out to me, who pushed me in the direction of becoming a teacher myself.
It was third grade. I was a very shy kid, maybe an average student, and did not have confidence in myself at all. Even at that young age, I knew that about myself. Then Mrs. Medima walks into my life. She impacted me so greatly because she SAW me. I wasn’t able to sit back and slip through the cracks because she saw me, pushed me, and believed that I was so much more capable than I believed for myself. She made such an impact in my life that I can still see her smile and her amazing ‘teacher’ outfits. ;) Every Christmas I am reminded of all that she did for me by hanging the ornament she gave me all those years ago on my Christmas tree.
Many years pass and I am now a junior in high school. There was a new teacher in our high school and his name was Mr. Doust. I was in one of his classes. At the beginning of the year, class started off like most high school classes do. Lecture, note taking, quizzes, tests, etc. But as the year went on, Mr. Doust’s teaching began to change. One day walking up to class, all you saw was black butcher paper across his doorway. He had created a ‘secret’ entry to his classroom. Once inside, there were lamps, with bar tables set up everywhere…. No desks to be seen. He had set up a speakeasy in his classroom. He had created a classroom simulation for us to become immersed in what he had to teach us. Then another project we had to create videos in order to teach the class about another time period… and back then making videos was not as easily done like it is today on our phones! I remember that he challenged me and wasn’t satisfied with just rote memorization of the information (which I was really good at doing!). His style of teaching and how he interacted with us as students, as people, was different and breathed life into the high school. Was it easy for him? No… Many other teachers pushed back on him and how he was teaching, but he continued because he knew it was the best thing for my classmates and I.
Both of these teachers in my life impacted me greatly in different ways. Mrs. Medima taught me the beauty and necessity of seeing each student individually for who they are. She taught me the power of the love of a teacher and how that love can be a vehicle for students to move mountains, personally and academically. Mr. Doust taught me that you don’t have to follow in everyone’s footsteps and that being indiuvally you is a powerful thing. He taught me that teachers have a voice and can have individuality in their instructional delivery. He taught me that even if it’s not the ‘norm’, you need to do what is best for your students.
As long as I can remember, my dream job was to be a teacher. I was that little girl that set up a classroom in her room and taught her dolls and stuffies about math, writing, and reading. My first grade teacher was someone who started my love of learning and teaching. Mrs. Parks was kind, compassionate, and always greeted her students with a warm smile. Above her love for her students she was someone who saw each student for who they were and respected each student's unique personalities. Mrs. Parks was the teacher that tried new strategies, incorporated activities, and made learning fun.
Moving forward to my student teaching year, I asked Mrs. Parks if she could be my mentor. She was in her last year of teaching and I wanted to learn from a teacher I admired all these years. In that year, I learned more than any textbook could offer. Mrs. Parks taught me to love my students the way she did with me all those years ago by having conversations with them, listening to them, and then teaching them. Mrs. Parks taught me that building relationships with your students was the foundation of being an outstanding teacher. Now almost 30 years later she is still my cheerleader, and for that I am so grateful.
We share these stories to remind you of the power of an educator. Being an educator is no easy task. And in the past few years, the job seems almost impossible at times. But remember, the students that are in front of you today are being molded and shaped by YOU. They are looking up to YOU. They are learning from YOU. Those students are depending and trusting in YOU. And even when they may not always show it, those students care for YOU. There is not a more powerful job in the world than that of an educator.
"A teacher affects eternity: he can never tell where his influence stops."