School is over and the exhilarated squeal that began in January from the teachers I know has become a well-deserved, deafening roar. Being a teacher is a challenge, gift and a burden. I have several friends who are teachers and since I was a student who tried to get away with more than I should have, I know it’s tough. I have kids and they don’t say “thank you” without prompting as often as I’d like and it can be discouraging and disheartening to give and give only to receive complaints or more demands.
So, I thought I’d take this opportunity to say “thank you”. To the teachers who are
scrambling to the exit heading into the summer, please know that your students will remember you and you may have made an impact you’ll never know. I remember some of the academics they taught, but I remember more of how I was treated and their method for education. I don’t know where they all are today, but I’d like to say thank you. I don’t have a memory for every single teacher, but here we are a few:
Mrs. Stanchina, First Grade: I spent a lot of time practicing saying her name and enjoyed how she would hold the book open with one hand for us all to see the pictures. So, thank you.
Mrs. Sullivan, Third Grade: She was beautiful. Long blonde hair with hot pink nails. She was a newlywed and her husband ran the Outback Steakhouse. I thought she was divine. When I wrote on a worksheet that I wanted my honeymoon to be in Hawaii, she circled it and said she did too! Mrs. Sullivan and I were just the same, so cool. So, thank you.
Mrs. Grider, Fourth Grade: She was tall and thin and had short hair, like my mom. She was nice and fun but not soft and fuzzy…kind of like my mom. One time, my braid fell out and she combed my hair back into a braid and I thought it was so nice to be taken care of that way. I remember leaving class one Friday and walking down the long boardwalk from our portable classroom to the main sidewalk when I heard her shout with glee to another teacher “It’s Friday! Pay day!” with her hands raised in the air. They were so excited and it was kinda funny to see my teacher as a person like that. So, thank you.
Mrs. Hulsey: Her name sounded like my maiden name, Hull, so we were cool. This is the year I learned I actually had to study. I learned it the hard way. I’d get an F one week and an A the next (depending on whether I was grounded from poor grades or not). I don’t think I’d ever had a bad grade before that class. It was an interesting experience. So, thank you.
Miss Swallow, elementary school: She was my music teacher all five years and she was the best. She produced our ensemble productions and I participated every year I was eligible. This is when I first became interested in theater. Thank you for not keeping us in rehearsal all night like you threatened to until that person who said “snap!” at the wrong moment in the song came forward (it was me and I was terrified). Thank you for putting everything together, staying late, teaching us music and making it fun. Thanks for teaching me the recorder and arranging for us to play at the Olive Garden that one time. I felt like we were big time then and you didn’t have to do that. So, thank you.
Middle school is when I got a whole bunch of teachers, so I definitely don’t remember them all. I do remember Mrs. Dietz and Mrs. Odom though and this is when I learned about shame and grace.
Mrs. Dietz and Mrs. Odom were sisters and I had them as teachers for science and math respectively (I think). I was very involved in writing notes between friends with fun hand-lettering and creative folding processes. I wasn’t very good at the folding, but I always had a lot to say (imagine that). One day, I was bored in Mrs. Dietz’s class and began writing about her outfit in the letter I was writing to a friend. I was very rude and thoughtless. And then I accidentally dropped the note on the floor and went on to my next class.
Mrs. Odom pulled me aside the next day and told me how much I had hurt her sister. I won’t go in to detail, but it was an incredibly low moment for me. I was mortified and when my actions were brought in to the light, it was so glaring how wrong I was.
I wasn’t quite mature enough to apologize face-to-face, so I wrote Mrs. Dietz an apology and left it on her desk in secret. The next day, she grabbed me in the biggest, sweetest, most gracious hug. Mrs. Odom never held it against me and neither did Mrs. Dietz. I am so glad Mrs. Odom said something to me about my actions and I am even more grateful to Mrs. Dietz for demonstrating what unconditional forgiveness is. So, thank you.
Ok, that was super heavy, let’s move on to high school.
Mr. Furo, Ninth Grade: He taught English and, unbeknownst to me, had recommended me for the Yearbook staff. The Yearbook teacher approached me and thus began my interest in writing and publishing. For a long time I claimed I wanted to be the Editor-in-Chief of People Magazine. I didn’t read People Magazine, but it was a magazine I knew of and seemed kinda cool, so why not? I majored in magazine publishing or something for one semester in college before switching to public relations. I’ve worked in PR for 10 years and have published my first novel. I don’t know if I would have joined the field of communication if I had not joined the Yearbook staff. You saw potential that I didn’t see. So, thank you.
Mrs. Levine, 10th Grade: She was short and really liked to talk with her hands. I’ll never forget the way she walked us through the first chapter of the Scarlet Letter, she had such great energy when discussing literature. She also did not tolerate sleeping in class. She had a rule that you couldn’t put your head on your desk. Her class started at 7:20 a.m. I learned to sleep sitting up in the front row and she let me. I don’t really know why, but I was grateful. So, thank you.
Mr. Dees, 11th Grade: Another very cool teacher. He made history interesting and taught our class like a group discussion rather than a lecture. At the start of every chapter, we had to write out the definition of all the glossary terms in the chapter. It was tedious, annoying and effective. He also drilled into our heads the dangers of credit cards and was adamant that we never use a credit card. This was also very effective. To this day, I hate using credit cards. Ty and I now have great credit. So, thank you.
Mr. Brendlinger, high school: I’m pretty sure I took some kind of drama class every year I was in high school. Mr. Brendlinger educated me on classic movies like The Breakfast Club, 9 to 5, 16 Candles and Rebel Without a Cause among a few others. I never got any big parts, probably because I was afraid of my voice. After every show, he’d ask us to write down what we thought was good and what could have been better. He was extremely gracious when I wrote a scathing letter about our last show at the end of my senior year. I probably let out frustrations that had nothing do to with him or theater. Instead of calling me in to his office and asking me exactly where I got off (as I deserved), he responded with his own letter encouraging me in many ways. I communicated that I felt that I had been overlooked and he immediately tried to rectify it by giving me the role of piano player in an event. I cannot play by ear or compose and that’s what I ended up doing. In our drama class, we had a piano prodigy who usually got this role and I learned that sometimes it’s best to look at what I’m doing wrong when I don’t get what I want than blaming someone else. Because they might give it to you. Also, it’s not a good idea to tell someone off because they might hear you and you may have to see them again. I know now how much time he gave that he was/is unpaid for. He still teaches at my high school and continues to serve the students and our community in ways that will make this already long blog post too long. So, thank you.
Mrs. Cottingham, 12th Grade: This is who I chose to be my senior scholar and I was a little surprised by my decision. Mrs. Cottingham meant business. She had a sense of humor but wasn’t quite fuzzy and she definitely didn’t let me get away with stuff by riding on my charm or sense of humor. She gave me a detention for being late three times. That was the rule and who cared that I was one of the top students? I broke the rules. I totally respected her for it. She was also my yearbook teacher my junior and senior year and she helped get our team on track. I learned that if you plan ahead and do your work early then you don’t have to scramble later on. We basically had nothing to do for the last month (maybe 2?) of school. It was nice. So, thank you.
Thanks to all the teachers I left out and those who are teach in our schools today. I didn’t realize all the politics at play in the education system when I was younger, but I know I’ll be experiencing it when my own kids begin school. Thank you for teaching academics, gratitude, art, patience, science, kindness, music, perseverance, P.E., humor, math, sharing, literature and love. Thanks for your patience with the system you work within, with the parents, administrators and the many unpaid hours you log to give us a generation of character. Have a great summer and thanks teach!