The recent appointment of a new Department of Education head and the move of the governor of my state to research the public school system in my county has caused me to think much about my education. I have a lot of friends who are public school teachers and friends who teach at private schools and even at higher educational institutions. It's not an easy job but every teacher is shaping the future of every student they teach. Heavy weight to carry around for one person.
As I've ruminated on this, I've come up with five teachers throughout my educational career that have impacted me for a lifetime. Let me say there have been many more, but these were the first to come to mind, and span my education from kindergarten to MBA. Most of them don't know the impact they made and some are no longer on this earth for me to tell them. But I hope this post encourages you to share with a former teacher of yours the impact they've made. Or, if you are a teacher, you'll read this and say "You know, this day stinks, but I may have just changed a life today." Without further ado, here is my five featured teachers...
Mrs. Juanita Gass - Mrs. Gass was one of my Kindergarten teachers along with Mrs. Jacobson. You really do learn a lot in Kindergarten and I have to admit, I did. I remember distinctly on election day going into a cardboard voting booth to vote for what Kool-Aid flavor we'd have for snack time and my flavor won! (It was grape) It instilled in me that my vote really does count! The lesson learned from Mrs. Gass was unconditional love and how she wouldn't keep any child from being included. It wasn't until I was 28 that I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, but even as a 5-year-old, I would wear out after walking a distance. One day we took a field trip to the Zoo and I couldn't walk the entire way. Mrs. Gass carried me on her shoulders the remainder of the Zoo trip. She didn't have to do that, but she did. I'll never forget that.
Mrs. Lily Kruetzman - Mrs. Kruetzman was my 3rd grade teacher. She was one of the most jovial people I knew. She'd laugh and we always had fun in her class. One day, I came to school and my jacket's zipper was stuck. I couldn't get out of my coat. Mrs. Kruetzman saw me struggling and being the independent soul I wouldn't ask for help. She came over and said, "I can get you out of that jacket!" She quickly pulled it over my head, which clearly I hadn't thought of. Her next phrase was, "There's more than one way to skin a cat." She taught me that when you can't do something, or are in a pickle, there is always a way to get out of it, or make it work.
Miss Kathy Leonard - Miss Leonard was my 7th and 8th grade Core teacher. In Junior High, Core Class was where you spent a good chunk of your day and I was thrilled to spend it with Miss Leonard! I almost lost it when I found out I had her again in 8th grade! Miss Leonard was another fun-loving teacher and was single. I thought she was the coolest. In 8th grade, she was working on additional education and used us as her guinea pigs for creative teaching techniques. We did some of the most innovative activities to teach concepts. We even held our own courtroom one day. The lesson I learned from Miss Leonard is that you can do anything and don't have to be married to do it. I don't think this was her main intent, and I didn't realize that lesson until I was older. And even today as I'm still single and a career woman, I think of Miss Leonard and her inspiration of having fun and being successful being single.
Mr. Lance Springs - Mr. Springs was my Junior English teacher. During that year, we had to write a pretty extensive research paper - 25-30 pages on a topic of our choice, but we had to use 3 book references, 20 periodicals, and 1 special source, such as a newspaper or personal interview. Now, keep in mind this was WAY before the Internet, so this was no easy task. I presented him my topic choice, which was the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. He said to me, "I'll approve this, but I doubt you'll be able to find the adequate sources." You never tell me "can't" and I was on a mission. Not only did I keep that topic, I received a 96 on the paper. During my Senior year, I was his Teacher's Aide, so I felt like I reached a new level by proving my abilities to him. The lesson I learned from him was "you can do anything you really put your mind to." I don't know if that was his intent in his comment to me, but somehow I think he knew my personality and knew I would put forth my best work when challenged. To this day, I still take a challenge as serious as I did that research paper.
Dr. Karen Rush - Dr Rush was my last professor during my MBA studies. She was the professor of my last class before graduation - the capstone class. Our biggest assignment was an analysis of a company using everything we'd learned in our MBA studies. When I got my paper back, she said, "Have you ever considered getting your PhD? This is great work and you'd do well in PhD studies." Now, my PhD friend, Paige, is praying me in that direction, but for now, pursuing my PhD isn't on my radar. But hearing those words encourage me to never close the door on any possibility. I said at one time I'd never get my MBA and - boom - I have it. I'd love to teach as an adjunct one day to see if it's something I'd enjoy and Dr. Rush has offered to help me in any way she can.
I'm thankful for my education and for all the teachers who invested in me. Hug a teacher today. You are where you are, in part, because of them.