Saturday, May 5, 2012

Teacher Appreciation Week

Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week. I know this because I work in an elementary school where the PTO parents show their appreciation regularly, and during this particular week, effusively. It's a tremendous blessing to work in this type of environment, particularly now when public education is taking a trouncing unlike any I can remember.

What I can remember, though, is those teachers who made an impact on my life. My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Evans, who was kind and made my first school experience fun. My first grade teacher, whose name I remember but won't share, as my experiences with her made me miss my precious Mrs. Evans all the more. I still remember her calling me a crybaby, which may well have been true, but is nearly as hurtful to me now as it was when I was seven.
My sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Ross, taught us that as the oldest student s in the building, we had a responsibility to set an example for the younger children. She also told us on the first day of school that smart people don't need to swear because they can think of better words to express themselves (an opinion I have shared with my now-teen-aged daughter), and who insisted that each of her students purchase a thesaurus and learn how to use it. I still have that book somewhere, along with the tattered, alphabetically arranged paperback version that got me through high school, college and grad school and the super thesaurus that I bought when I got serious about writing. I think Mrs. Ross would be proud.
In middle school, Miss Lee introduced me to similes, metaphors and more vocabulary than I thought I would ever need. She was my first real writing teacher, encouraging my fledgling adolescent efforts and my budding aspirations for a career in writing. Across the hall, Mr. Avery  taught algebra, which I found more difficult and less interesting,  but I enjoyed his class - and his crazy 70s fashion sense - in spite of the fact that math was involved. Then there was the elderly social studies teacher who slammed the classroom door so hard he broke the glass, inadvertently teaching us all a lesson in anger management as well as the appropriate age at which to retire.

In high school, there was Mr. Faubl, who tried (in vain, and with great kindness) to teach me physics, Mr. Smith, who taught me trig and helped me regain some of the confidence in math I'd lost between Mr. Avery and eleventh grade,  and Mr. Kennedy whose dry sense of humor and tough work ethic taught us not just American History, but how to master massive amounts of material and have fun along the way.
Finally, there was Mr. Rykaczewski , whose choral music room became my second home and Mr. Shaw, who put me on the stage, a place I'd been coveting since I got my first line in an end-of-year performance in the all-purpose room in elementary school. My best high school memories revolve around music and Drama Club not just because that's where my friends were (and my heart was), but also because I had teachers who made me feel like I had something to offer. Auditions were scary, but never insurmountable because we knew they were just a means to an end. It was high school, so the drama wasn't always confined to the stage, but those rooms were a place where mistakes were allowed and exploration was encouraged. We could express ourselves, but more important, we could be ourselves.
Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week. Which teachers do you remember?

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