Teaching is the one profession that creates all other professions. – Unknown
It’s teacher appreciation week and I want to give some shoutouts to the teachers who helped me along.
I can’t talk about teachers without mentioning my parents. My dad was a junior high math teacher, and my mom was a high school business teacher. Both ended up teaching at schools I attended and let me tell you being “the teacher’s kid” is not a lot of fun. But I survived and people still tell me stories about how my parents helped them.
My first-grade teacher, Miss Lange, had a physical disability. It was unusual back then to have a teacher with a disability, but she managed it, and us, beautifully. At the time I probably wasn’t cognizant of the fact she was teaching me to be accepting of people who were different than myself or that I was learning about resilience. It wasn’t like she said any of that out loud. It was her first year of teaching first grade and she went on to teach for forty more years.
Mrs. Kibbie, my third-grade teacher was a life saver. I’d gone from the top reading group in first grade to the bottom reading group in second. (My second-grade teacher was a disaster and I have stories that would chill you, but that is all for another day.) Mrs. Kibby knew I was struggling with reading and started sending home extra reading homework. Some of my classmates saw the book I was taking home and made fun of me. But because of Mrs. Kibby and my parents, by the end of the year I was back in the top reading group and my love of reading was restored. I can’t imagine how different my life might have been without her.
Mr. Castro was my seventh-grade Spanish teacher and my homeroom teacher. He was young, handsome, and managed to teach us Spanish. (Yes, I can still sing Jingle Bells in Spanish. Who knows? Someday that might come in handy.) On the last day of school, Mr. Castro told us he’d been drafted and was heading to Vietnam. It was the first time the war had become more than headlines. All the girls cried, and the boys had shocked looks on their faces. Mr. Castro survived and went on to teach many more years.
Mr. Kuhl (I probably spelled his name wrong) was my junior high speech teacher. He was a fun and interesting teacher, but something he said always stuck with me. He told me I picked unusual topics for a girl. This was after speeches about the Mafia and the Loch Ness Monster. I don’t think he meant it unkindly, but it was an early lesson in how women were viewed. But he also picked me to emcee a big school program and I got a part in one of the school plays. I was The Girl in The Storm. Those things taught me confidence.
Mr. Stedwell was my high school journalism teacher, and the man in charge of the newspaper and yearbook staff. God bless him. He was young – just out of college. I worked on the yearbook for two years, first as the index editor and then as editor-in-chief. It taught me how to work with different groups of people, how to be organized, and how great finishing a project felt. There were tears to be dried and encouragement to be given, he managed it all with patience, and laughter. That man put up with a lot of shenanigans!
Jim Thomas taught one of my college literature and creative writing courses. The man smoked nonfiltered Camel cigarettes in class even when they opened a new no-smoking building. I did an independent study with him on American writers and learned to see beyond the words on the page. I still remember reading Hemingway’s short story “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” and delving into the light, shadows, and dark in the story with him.
And finally, Dr. Ruth Towne, my college history professor, and the sponsor of my sorority. She pulled me aside once and told me I wasn’t living up to my potential. She was absolutely right. I was more interested in going to fraternity parties than classes. I’d like to say that comment straightened me out right away, but it didn’t. However, it always stuck with me and for the rest of my life when I’ve accomplished something, I think of her.
I was lucky to have many great teachers — more than I could name here.
Readers: Did you have a teacher that made an impact on your life?