Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Dear Teacher

In honor of teacher appreciation week, I thought it was time to give a shout-out to a few of the teachers who made an impression and a difference in my life. As an educator of thirty-four years, I know that I did not get here by myself, that there were people (teachers) who would provide lessons that I would remember, draw on, and carry with me through my life. Some lessons were good, some bad, but all have had an effect on the Jana I am today. I am grateful to have had some truly wonderful teachers.

Dear Mrs. Fisher, (First Grade, Lawndale Elementary, Amarillo, Texas)
Thank you for surviving a complete year with me as a student. While you knew that I did not go to kindergarten and had difficulty sitting in my seat, I do not remember you ever striking me, yelling at me, or taking insults to heart. Thank you for making two visits to my home to let my parents know that even though I talked continuously and had difficulties understanding subtraction, I was a great reader and you could not recommend for me to be retained or "flunked" at the end of the year. Thank you also for letting my parents know that I had told you I wished a big black dog would run up and bite you when I was angry for losing my recess one day. Your patience was commendable and I am sure you have a whole crown of stars in heaven since you seemed very old to be teaching a bunch of six year old hooligans. Or at least one.

Dear Mrs. Blanton, (Third Grade, Webster Elementary, Lubbock, Texas)
Thank you for showing the class your slides of Mexico, Alaska, and South America during Geography. Seeing these interesting places instilled a desire to travel to exotic places. I was always impressed at how you could jump rope to one hundred wearing a pencil skirt, hose, and heels. I apologize for talking continuously during quiet time after lunch which provoked you to smacking the back of my legs with a ruler. Thank you for introducing me personally to the principal with whom I developed a friendly relationship over the next two years while at Webster. Did you know he bought me a coke to calm me from crying hysterically that afternoon? I also want to thank you for teaching me that to have a friend, I must first be a friend. That lesson has been a keeper!

Dear Mrs. McLeod, (Sunday School Teacher, Southcrest Baptist Church, Lubbock, Texas)
Thank you for volunteering to teach Sunday School to me for at least three years. It seemed like you were stalking me when year after year, when I found myself assigned to your class. My mother told me not to take it personally and to learn from your experience as you seemed much older than my grandparents. Thank you for writing me that very nice letter when I moved to Houston the summer before sixth grade. To learn that you joined another church the week after we moved gave me an eery feeling, but my mother told me that she was certain it was a coincidence. My aunt told me you retired from teaching Sunday School. I hope you enjoyed your retirement.

Dear Mrs. Ator, (Sixth Grade Reading Teacher, Anderson Elementary, Houston, Texas)
Thank you, thank you, thank you for being kind, loving, and having a wonderful sense of humor. Every morning, your class was a refuge for me as I was not a happy camper in my regular 6th grade class. I begged my parents to move me to your class, but they were traditionalists and felt that it would build character to stay in my originally assigned class. Your daily hugs were a life saver. I still miss you!

Mrs. Wallace, (Music Teacher, Anderson Elementary, Houston, Texas)
Thank you for being an amazing music teacher with whom I shared a love for show tunes! Going to your class every week was spectacular! I loved the way you made me feel valued and important to your program. Thank you for all the praise of being able to sing on tune, harmonize, and memorize song after song. I still have my music book that we made in your class. There are times when I break into song and you can bet it will lead into a rousing chorus of "Hey! Look Me Over!" P.S. I can still do the choreography to "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head."

Miss Black, (Summer School Math, Anderson Elementary, Houston, Texas)
Thank you so much for the first wonderful math experience in elementary school! You instilled in me confidence that I could convert fractions to decimals and back without erasing a hole in my worksheet. After a rocky sixth grade experience, you were a life saver!

Mr. Kurilko, (Foster Junior High, Tulsa, Oklahoma)
Thank you so much for making me laugh each day in Physical Science. I enjoyed making my own batteries, building a car out of blocks, and making it run! I am sorry that I caught my hand on fire with the leaky alcohol burner, but your knowledge of first aid really came to good use that day! You didn't even complain about the singed text books on my table that engulfed into flame when I dropped the burner. I still have a couple of little faint scars on my left hand. I think of you whenever I look at them.

Mrs. Teddly, (Horace Mann Junior High School, Little Rock, Arkansas)
Thank you for calling back later in the evening after I told you that you had the wrong number when you called my parents. Letting them know that I had not turned in required assignments and that I was struggling with math showed you cared that I did well in your class. Thank you for not taking this personally. I was in a dark place within puberty and I was having adjustment issues about moving to my third junior high in three years. I learned a tremendous amount during our semester together. I appreciate all your effort. PS. I have called many parents during my career. They always thank me for caring for their kids.

Mrs. Davies, (English, Parkview High School, Little Rock, Arkansas)
Thank you for being an amazing eleventh grade English teacher! I learned so much from you and became a much improved writer in the process. I loved the enthusiasm you put into your lessons. Who knew you could make The Scarlet Letter come to life by having us read and act out most of the chapters? Arthur Miller's Crucible became such a terrific reading experience after you explained the purpose behind it. Every American should learn about McCarthyism and how a "witch hunt" is an example of bad citizenship. I loved your class and I loved how you made me see what I could do with my talents. Everyone should have a teacher like YOU!

Mrs. Neville, (Chemistry, Parkview High School, Little Rock, Arkansas)
Thank you for understanding when my father brought me to school after he had learned that I cheated on a test in your class. It was noble of you to offer for me to retake it. My dad didn't agree and you saw the wisdom of his insisting I receive an F for that test. Thank you for not mentioning it to my friends and the other students. It was our secret. Also, thank you so much for all the offers of extra credit that semester. That was very kind.

Dr. Watson, (Education Professor, Ouachita Baptist University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas)
Thank you so much for teaching your students very valuable lessons for teachers. You stressed that:
1) Students do not want their teachers to be their friends. We can do more for them as teachers.
2) Students do not treat always their friends very nicely and why would we want that for ourselves?
3) Students will break your hearts if your cross the magic line into the "friendship zone". The best thing we can do for our students is to teach them.

Dr. "Pappaw" Mims, (Educational Economics Professor, Ouachita Baptist University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas)
Thank you, thank you, thank you for the wonderful class in Educational Economics! Who knew that future teachers around America were not all taking this valuable course! I knew quite a bit about school finance before I had a job in a school district! It has helped me immensely! Oh, and sorry about the references to being an old man. I am now probably close to the age you were when I was in college!

Mrs. Snookie Dixon, (Pre-School Teacher, First Baptist Church, Arkadelphia, Arkansas)
Thank you for allowing me to intern in your class for my Early Childhood Practicum while I was at OBU. Being in your class taught me that little children are weirdly wonderful. Thank you for passing a pair of girls and boys underwear around the circle of students to answer the mystery of what everyone was wearing under their clothes. This stopped the boys from lifting the girls' skirts on the playground. And thank you for encouraging me to crawl under the table and spend some time with your student who refused to come out each day. I used this in a fourth grade class that I observed as an instructional coach several years ago. It helps to understand the safety of being under a table.

Mrs. Chapel, (Library Science Professor, Ouachita Baptist University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas)
I loved every class you taught and it was in your classes I saw the path I was meant to take in education. My mind was a sponge whenever you spoke and I felt so prepared when I left college. Who knew it would be six years later before I would sit behind a librarian's desk, but you made certain I was ready for the challenge. I still have the letter you wrote me when that happened. Thank you for seeing so many qualities in me and sharing them with me before I graduated from college. I know that as you are now gone from this world, you left a space at Ouachita that could never be filled. You hold a place in my heart. PS. Thanks for letting Brenda and I sunbathe on the balcony of the educational building during that Spring when the weather was so good! You were always young at heart.

And for all the teachers that I missed, thank you for being part of a profession that teaches all other professions. You have made a difference.
Thank you!

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