I remember Mrs. Abbott, my first grade teacher. I remember her as being kind, never raising her voice and hugging the students often. I remember Mrs. Hower, my third grade teacher. Not only was she the most beautiful teacher I ever had, she kept butterscotch candy in her desk drawer. When we scored a high score on a spelling test we got invited to reach into that drawer for one piece of her butterscotch candy. I was a grand speller that year and even represented our room at the school spelling bee. I remember my grade school music teacher, Mrs. Voorhees. She taught us to dance “round” dances and when it rained we got to dance them in the gym instead of going outside for recess after lunch. I loved those dances and over 50 years later I still remember every step.
I remember my senior year English literature teacher, Mrs. Claiborn. She loved literature and made us memorize poetry. I discovered poetry that year and it was like music rolling from my lips. I can still feel the trembling of my knees when I had to stand in front of the class and recite, but I loved her for it. That was the year I learned to love reading and writing. I was one of the few students who thought writing a research paper was a real joy. I still wonder at how she instilled that in me. I was just an average student but she reached inside of me and stirred my love of words. The funny thing is that about 30 years after I graduated, I had her granddaughter in my 5th grade class.
I remember Kathy Bogdas. She was our high school physical education teacher. She was right out of college, so young but bold and caring. I think she is the reason I was elected pep club president. I wasn’t one to exert myself socially and when I was nominated and won that vote, I was thrilled and took that job to heart. There were others who certainly stood out as probable candidates and I was shocked to learn that I would get such a leadership position. I am Facebook friends with Ms. Bogdas and she continues to get back to the Midwest for a visit from time to time.
And though I try, I cannot remember any other teachers, not their faces, nor their names. I don’t know if it is a sad thing to have had so many teachers and remembered so few or if it is a wonderful thing to remember any at all. I try to examine why these teachers stand out in my memory when others do not. I know that it was not from anything I did. I believe it is because these individuals were truly teachers. I believe that these special people made an effort to connect with their students as they pushed each one to succeed. I believe they understood what it meant to teach; what it meant for us to learn. Yes, I believe these teachers made a difference in my life and I’m sure in the lives of many others as well.
As I look back over my own years as a teacher, I can only hope that there are former students who will remember me. I hope they remember me as being kind, respectful, caring and as a teacher who connected with them. I don’t care if they remember what year “Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” And I don’t care if they remember the exact steps of the science experimental process. I hope I gave them more than that; more than just information to swallow. I hope I engaged them in ways that made a difference in their lives as my teachers made a difference in mine.
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