Inspiring Individuals: My Teachers

Since it is Teacher Appreciation Week, I thought this would be a perfect time to acknowledge some of the people who have been the most influential in my life, my teachers.  I had some truly great ones from kindergarten to college, but there are just a few who stand out more than the others–and those are the folks I want to recognize in today’s post.

The first teacher I can remember having a real impact on me was my first 3rd grade teacher, Lynne Peterson.  Third grade was an interesting year for me.  Based on my test performance I was moved out of the public school that was close to home, and bussed to another school which offered self-contained classes for students who had been identified as academically gifted. I think I was too young for it to me make me uncomfortable that I was different, but I knew I wasn’t at the school where I had been with all of my neighborhood friends. Then, I found out I had to get glasses. I wasn’t too happy about it and several kids in my class made fun of me.  Back then, you couldn’t go to LensCrafters and get your glasses in one hour or less. Nope, we had to wait.  I’m not sure how long, but it could have taken a week to get them.  Ms. Peterson knew that I was going to be coming into school wearing glasses and she had been paying attention to how the other kids had been treating me.  Imagine my surprise and delight when I walked into my classroom wearing glasses for the first time and discovered Ms. Peterson wearing glasses, too!  Ms. Peterson knew I was apprehensive and made sure to put me at ease by leaving her contacts at home and rocking her glasses.  She earned rock star status that day (and obviously still maintains it in my head).  Ms. Peterson taught me a lot about being proud of myself and not letting others break me down.

My next great teacher was Mandy Ryan.  Ms. Ryan was not only my fifth grade teacher, she was a singer. I remember her singing songs to us about what we were learning and I remember photos hung on bulletin boards of her performing Madame Butterfly.  The year I had Ms. Ryan, almost every single one of my best girlfriends and I were in the same class.  We were delighted, but as girls entering adolescence tend to do, we bickered constantly. I don’t remember Ms. Ryan giving us a “talking to” or anything like that, but I do remember what we worked together on things all the time.  Whether it was school work, or helping her hang a bulletin board, or working on a “special project” after we had finished our work, we worked together.  We also gained a lot of cultural knowledge from Ms. Ryan’s class. I remember a special field trip to a church for an event called “Bach’s Lunch” where we listened to Bach pieces played on a piano and then moved into the church basement for a boxed lunch.  I remember going to see Ms. Ryan perform at the Carolina Theater and hearing her sing “Memory” dressed as a cat.  Ms. Ryan taught me to be a part of a community that respected learning more than just academics from school.

And finally, we fast forward to high school.  I could probably write a separate blog post about the many wonderful teachers and classes I had the opportunity to take in high school, but one teacher stands out beyond the rest.  Richard Shaw was one of the first teachers I encountered when I enrolled at Cleveland High School part way through my sophomore year. He was one of two teachers for a two-hour World Studies class that integrated World Literature and World History.  Without a doubt, this was my favorite class I ever had in high school, and possibly even beats out almost of my college classes.  Coach Shaw has a true passion for education.  It was evident in every class I took with him and when he coached me in Model UN. I always knew I would go to college and I always worked hard in school, but I don’t believe that I truly developed a passion for education until I knew Coach Shaw.

These teachers were all instrumental in shaping me as an individual and as an educator. They all contributed something unique to the complex person I have become.  I’m lucky to have known them all and all those whom they have taught are just as lucky.

Teacher Appreciation Week is a perfect time for reflection.  Why not take a few minutes to think about those teachers that had the most influence on you?  Then, reach out to thank them for all they have done for you!

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