The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. ~William A. Ward
Who was that teacher that inspired you to become the person you are today? The one who challenged you? The one who you knew truly cared about you? The one who opened up your mind to a world of knowledge and possibilities?
Throughout my school years, I have had numerous teachers who made a difference in my life. In my early years, their example was so influential, that all I wanted to be was a teacher when I grew up. As a young girl, alone in my room, I would spend endless hours playing school to my imaginary students. My lessons were impeccable. I would carefully and thoughtfully share my vast wisdom, just like my favorite teachers had done for me.
My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Burdick, was not one of those teachers. She was strict, firm, and
unloving–not someone you would expect to be teaching little five year olds and serving up their first impression of formal education. All I remember of kindergarten was planting radishes, painting, nap time, and enduring along with the rest of my class, Mrs. Burdick’s constant scolding. Luckily for me, I had more compassionate teachers in first grade (Mrs. Norland) and in second grade (Mrs. Fish). I was particularly close to my 5th grade teacher, Miss Bamber. She asked my sister and I to be the “candle lighters” at her wedding ceremony. What an honor. Miss Bamber was so beautiful and kind. I was devasted when she left her post after her wedding. Fifth grade was never the same again.
It was in sixth grade, when I had Mr. Guillemet, that I really learned what school was all about. I was scared to death when I found out that I was assigned to his class. He was my first male teacher and had the reputation of being a real task master. Yes, he was disciplined. But it was that discipline that resulted in getting the most out of his students. I still remember the country report I had to give in his class. It was very detailed and had to be delivered not only in written form, but orally as well. I never worked so hard on a project nor had I ever felt so accomplished as a student. It was by working hard, and seeing such positive results, that I decided to be the best student I could be for the rest of my education career. Mr. Guillemet taught life skills that have benefited me throughout my life.
I continued to be blessed with some amazing teachers in junior high and high school. It was the 70’s and education back then was a lot different than the expectations we have today. Still, I was introduced to ideas and possibilities by teachers who were tops in their field. I can honestly look back and say, my school years were fabulous. So enriching and positive. I just loved learning, all because I had teachers who cared about me and who cared about fostering a desire to learn.
A few years ago, I tried to find Mr. Guillemet and let him know how his efforts were the beginning of my quest of taking learning seriously. At that time, I was introduced to a leader of the retired teachers association in Los Angeles County. I related to her my gratitude to Mr. Guillemet and how I wanted to let him know that he made a difference to me. I had figured that there were probably many an educator who have devoted their adult life to helping youth learn and who have probably never known if it mattered or not, Mr. Guillemet included. This woman took my contact information and promised to try to find him and pass on my desire to reach out to him in appreciation. I met up with her about a year later. She said she had been able to locate Mr. Guillemet (who must have been ANCIENT by this time because he was “really old” when I had him in 1970-71). She said she had relayed my message to him yet I never did hear back personally from him. Who knows. Maybe he didn’t remember me or thought I was some wacko stalker. It doesn’t really matter. I remember him and I will be forever grateful for the way he opened my eyes to applying myself in school and encouraging a desire to learn.
During the month of May, school districts all over the country, pass resolutions each year to recognize and honor educators. These resolutions provide an opportunity to reflect on those individuals who inspire us from September to June, opening our minds and getting us to drink deeply from the vast well of knowledge.
When was the last time you thought about that teacher who made a difference in your life? Did you ever thank that teacher? It’s never too late. Try going on Facebook or Google to track down that special individual. If you can’t locate them, perhaps you could write an imaginary thank you note to them or just share your gratitude for that teacher with your children and grandchildren. Your appreciation just might encourage another grateful student to recognize the worth of that special teacher who made all the difference.