Faces carved in stone. Memories etched in our heart. Words of belief, encouragement, patience, and praise inscribed in our souls.
Teachers who changed our lives.
One of my PLN colleagues (Deb Martin, @dkmartin69 ) posted an interesting story on her blog about teachers who changed her life, and asked us to consider who would be on our own “Mount Teachmore”?
As a teacher, this was a bittersweet challenge for me. You see, I grew up in a family of teachers. I was raised in a culture that embraced education. At home I was taught to respect my teachers, and at school I searched their eyes, listened to their critiques, and read their red-inked comments; hoping to catch a glimpse of my potential.
I wish I could draw upon memories of teachers who inspired me. I wish I had tales of teachers who shared their passion of literature with me. I wish I had memories of teachers who shared their vision for my future success. I wish I had stories like Lynda Mullaly Hunt, ( @LynMullalyHunt ) shares of her beloved Mr. Christy ( http://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2014/07/02/cover-reveal-fish-in-a-tree-by-lynda-mullaly-hunt/ ). I had some good teachers. I also had some that didn’t really seem to care about kids at all. But as I honestly take inventory of those entrusted with my instruction, there are no sweet memories to cherish. No recollections of teachers that called me to be a better version of myself. No life changers.
Until I went to become a teacher.
First, in grad school, I was exposed to teachers who loved their craft. They loved books. They loved writing. They loved to explore, discover, and learn about the world around them, and within them. And they loved kids. Not just the cute little messy huggable ones that come to you with bright smiles, but the aloof middle-school aged kids who are trying to figure out how to be cool or gucci, and the high-schoolers who are desperately trying to convince each other that they already are. They even loved grad students like me, who decided after 9/11 to go back to school and pursue a career where I could make an impact in the lives of other people.
These teachers lifted my spirit. They infused me with a vision for the kind of teacher I could become. They taught me how to honor the learning process. They taught me that the questions are more important than the answers. They modeled a respect for the courage required in learning, and the bravery necessary for presenting your ideas. They emphasized the importance of mistakes and failures as part of the learning process, and yet made me feel like my own time with them was filled with success from all the praise and encouragement they gave.
Collectively, the professors who led me to my M.A. in Education could have their own likeness on Mount Teachmore. I am deeply indebted to them. Yet, they will have to squeeze in tightly to share one spot, because the other three belong to the amazing members of the 5th grade team at my school.
Shari Z., Kathy H., and Cindy Z. are the resplendent faces that watch over our 5th grade students, and they are the teachers who for the past decade have inspired me to strive to be the best version of my teacher-self that I can be each day.
In many ways, these three educators couldn’t be more different than one another. Kathy has a very direct, confident, and assuring approach in communicating; Shari is keenly sensitive to meeting the specific needs of others; and Cindy is as nurturing as any soul
I have known. But what separates them is minuscule compared to what unites them. These three superheroes (they really should wear capes) have an unabashed love for their students. If you’re a child that crosses the threshold into their classrooms, you will be embraced, physically and emotionally, for life. You will be respected, quirks and all. Your leaning style will be understood. Your talents and gifts will be acknowledged and celebrated. Your classmates will welcome you as part of the team, because they will see you through the eyes of a teacher who can’t help but love you. You are their student. Their project. Their passion. Their friend. You will forever be engraved on their hearts.
And they will be forever written on yours.
I am so blessed and honored to work with these three amazing educators. My only wish is that sometimes I could be their student instead of their peer. I want to be a part of their classroom explorations. I want to sit in their exhilarating book discussions. I want to be an invited member of their class meetings.
I know there are many other teachers like these, even in my own building. Teachers that give students a vision of the potential inside of them. Teachers that overflow with a passion for learning, for life, and for making the world a better place. Teachers that are life-changers. I am just honored and blessed to work along side these three.
They are carved into my own heart.
My own Mount Teachmore.