If we are honest, we would have to acknowledge the fact that we are all teachers to some extent, whether we want to be or not. We have children and adults all around us who are watching us and learning from our actions and words. We don’t have to be celebrities or athletes to garner that kind of attention. Some may shrug off the responsibility and say, “I’m not a role model. Children should look to their parents to teach them right and wrong.” Sadly, I have encountered parents who don’t want to acknowledge their roles as teachers to their own children.
That is why I wanted to acknowledge the profession I love for the blessing it is; I want to point out that being a professional teacher means that I, as well as countless others, choose to be a role model, that I choose to prepare children for their futures. Teaching is truly the most important job in the world–a job that gives and receives blessings.
Am I biased? Possibly.
How did I become a teacher? I had amazing teachers who awakened my dormant curiosity, teachers who were the spark that lit up my world. I also had compassionate teachers who reached out to help me beyond the content of the classroom. It is because of those amazing teachers that I chose to be one. I intentionally decided that standing in front of young adults would be my life’s work because I wanted to awaken dormant curiosities and light-up teenagers’ worlds; I wanted to be that teacher who saw the pain in someone’s eyes and reach out beyond the content of my classroom.
Obviously, not everyone chooses the path I have chosen. There are many other professions and career choices out there. How did those people become what they are? Through teachers. None of us could be what we are without teachers.
There is not one person who hasn’t been affected by a teacher. We all have horror stories, myself included, but we also have teachers who have blessed our lives, changed us for the better.
Although I am sure I had some wonderful teachers in elementary school, I can only remember a few negative experiences that shaped my life during that time. It’s not until high school that I have memories of two outstanding teachers.
Mr. Ronald Poness was my Social Studies teacher my sophomore year. He was a tough sounding, no-shit-taking Vietnam War veteran. Mr. Poness would walk around the room with a yard stick in one hand, and, if a student started a side conversation or someone tried to be a clown, Mr. Poness would slap the yardstick in his hand and stare down the culprit. Nonsense stopped immediately. Every once in a while, he would slap the yardstick down on someone’s desk to wake us up or just scare us. We would jump out of our socks and then giggle nervously; Mr. Poness would just stare at us with this seemingly evil smirk as we settled back into our seats. He had no problems with classroom management, and we all respected him for it. Not only did he make history come alive, but he also had a compassionate side; however, I’m not sure how many students were aware of it.
I was one of those sit-in-the-back-of-the-class-and-not-say-a-word kids. I tried to become invisible in Mr. Poness’s classroom; I was terrified of him the first few weeks of school. But Mr. Poness saw me; he saw through my protective front. He asked me to stay behind one day after class and told me he noticed that I looked sad. I eventually told him about my parents’ divorce and all the fears that went with it. He listened to me and corrected my self-blaming. He was an adult who was truly on my side. He told me he would always be there for me if I needed to talk. I thanked him for his kindness. I still remember the serious look he gave me and the deep gravel of his voice when he said, “Yeah. Don’t let it get around.” And then he smiled and winked at me.
From that day on, he would walk past my desk and check on me with a tap on my desk and a small smile. If I smiled back, he would wink and continue walking around the room intimidating students with that yardstick. If I didn’t smile, he would wait after class to see how I was doing. I don’t know if I would’ve made it through that year without him. Mr. Poness was a teacher who made a difference in my life beyond the content of his subject matter.
Mrs. Martha McAdam was my English teacher junior year. I never liked English until I had her as a teacher. Mrs. McAdam had a love for literature that transcended the basic story—she loved language and creativity and shared and encouraged that in and with her students. She was the first teacher who was able to coerce me into speaking out in class. I was terrified that my thoughts would be mocked or tossed aside; on the contrary, she glowed every time I spoke and told me how bright and insightful I was. I had never heard those words from any teacher before. I sat a little straighter in class and started raising my hand to offer my thoughts. I read everything she assigned and started to develop my own love for literature. Mrs. McAdam was a teacher who helped me take my first steps towards discovering my path as an English teacher.
In college, Dr. Roger Stephenson was my first English Professor. I was told by a high school teacher my senior year that I would never make it in college English, so I was terrified that I would fail Dr. Stephenson’s class. I waited anxiously as he handed back our first essays. I remember hearing him ask, “Where is Pauline Galovski?” I slowly raised my hand. He held up my essay and waved it at the rest of the class. I wanted to slide to the floor and crawl out the door, I was so sure he was going to berate me. Instead, he announced to the class that I was the best writer he had ever had in his freshmen class. I was shocked. He then recommended me for the college writing lab—as a tutor. Dr. Stephenson was instrumental in my decision to be an English major; I haven’t regretted that decision a day since.
Dr. Robert Butler was my English professor sophomore year. He was also head of the department at the time. He was a kind, eloquent man who loved literature and furthered my love of literature; however, Dr. Butler has a place in my heart, not just because of the knowledge he instilled in me, but also because he convinced me not to drop out of school. I had some issues at home that I thought I needed to take care of. I went to the Bursar’s Office to start the process. An hour later I was called to Dr. Butler’s office. He told me he was notified of my decision to leave school, and he begged me not to. Dr. Butler listened to my fears and countered them all with compassion. And then he shared his fears with me: He feared that I would never return to school and the world would lose a great English teacher. Needless to say, I stayed.
Not only have I been blessed by wonderful teachers, but I also work with amazing teachers. I’ve watched colleagues change students’ lives; I work with teachers who take their profession seriously; teachers who have inspired countless students to follow their own educational and professional dreams; teachers who have inspired students to find out who they are and stay on that path, whatever it may be. These colleagues are just as much a blessing in my life and the lives of others as the teachers who shaped my path. I could write pages and pages about these teachers, but I am hoping that this post will encourage their students to share the impact they have made.
Teachers are blessings; I hope we never forget how important they are in our lives.
Have you had a teacher or teachers who blessed your life? Who made a difference? I’d love to read your story! Share your appreciation in the comment section below.