Wednesday, August 27, 2014

To the Teachers!

Do you remember your favorite teacher? I had several, from Mr. Engle my wonderful sixth grade English teacher, to Madame Kohn, thanks to whom I can still read (if not still speak) French, to Sister Mary Frances, who led the chorus, and also taught us about the philosopher Teilhard De Chardin.

My sister Mo and me the night of our chorus concert "Neath a Southern Moon"--Sister Mary Frances was ambitious!

  Each of my kids had some stand-out educators. Sheridan's first grade teacher Mrs. Weldon was a saint who also made learning fun, and annually directed the little ones in a play (Sher's year it was "The Happy Healthy Club." If memory serves, Sheridan played the role of a tooth.) She also let them watch Dennis the Menace cartoons while they ate snack, so she was popular indeed.

 Evan's fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Koch, worked hard to get him organized. At the first parent-teacher meeting, I walked in to the classroom and immediately located his sweatshirt, his jacket, a "missing" library book and so on. As I sat down with the stuff, she smiled and said, "Three guesses what I'd like to talk about!" It took the Naval Academy to finally pull him together, but it all began with Mrs. Koch.

Rose had a real gem for speech and debate her freshman year of high school, Mr. Redican. He challenged the students to become fine writers and even finer public speakers. I've saved several of her speeches, including one where she taught the class how to surf. Though Rose skewed more toward music than drama, I credit Mr. Redican for much of her poise in front of a crowd.

PJ had two amazing teachers in fourth and fifth grades, both men. At Mr. Goldberg’s "Fast Finishers" evenings, each child told the story of someone who overcame great odds to succeed. Mr. G would wear a tux to these events. Mr. Dillon was "so cool," and often told the kids about his many dogs and funky house, along with the math and science. I credit Goldberg and Dillon with PJ's decision to become a teacher.

Among Julie's instructors, one I recall very fondly was Mrs. Irvin, her kindergarten teacher. She was the gentlest, most nurturing soul ever. Julie (who was going through a shy phase) adored her and participated eagerly in all class activities, just because Mrs. Irvin asked her to.

Jules and Mrs. Irvin
 I get very annoyed when I think of how teachers are often regarded in this country. In many places they are woefully underpaid. I sometimes hear people talk about what a cushy job it is, with summers off, and I flash to the twelve hour (or longer) workdays that begin with early morning class and end with grading papers far into the night. I saw what goes into preparing lesson plans when PJ did his student teaching. It is one of the most important jobs there is, opening the world of learning to our children, and I wish we would treat it as such.

So here’s to the teachers, as the school bells ring again. God bless them, every one.

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