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Teacher: Overpaid Babysitter? No Way!

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The following post is from Cameron Young, a student at Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School in Lexington, Kentucky. 

Teacher: an overpaid babysitter, some might say. Teacher: an underpaid educator of young minds, others insist. So, what exactly is a teacher? A teacher, in my opinion, is a person, but not just any ordinary person - a person with a drive that doesn't compare to any other average Joe. A teacher is a mother to not just one child, but to twenty or even thirty! A teacher has the patience for the same questions to be asked ten or twenty times in a matter of just five minutes. But most importantly, a teacher has a passion for enriching young minds, a passion that keeps these extraordinary men and women going because being a teacher really tests every bit of you each and every single day.

Vanessa Justice is a teacher. She wakes up every day to teach her third-grade students at Rosa Parks Elementary. Mrs. Justice spends Monday through Friday from seven in the morning until three in the afternoon answering the endless amounts of questions that eight-year-old minds can create, being a mother figure to all twenty-seven of her children in her class, and ensuring that every child leaves her classroom confident in their ability to learn at the end of each school day. How do I know this? Well, Mrs. Justice was my third-grade teacher.

Going into my third grade year, my self-esteem was slowly crumbling away. My family was in a whirlwind of anger, betrayal, disappointment and chaos that would eventually lead us all down a path that ended in divorce. Though my life at home was quite chaotic, my six hours at school each day became my safe haven, all thanks to Mrs. Justice. She took me under her wing that school year, and I quickly became a teacher's pet. I began to love going to school. I loved to learn because of Mrs. Justice's way of teaching us all through fun games like sparkle and with rewards like pajama day, or maybe "camp read-a-lot." My third-grade school year was and still remains my most memorable and favorite year in all of my kindergarten through 12th grade schooling.

One of the greatest qualities about my favorite teacher, Mrs. Justice, was her ability to be so motherly. Parents aren't the only ones who know that kids need an incredible amount of love, attention and constant nurturing throughout their young lives. Children are very impressionable at a young age. Kids can read facial expressions and hear emotion in others' voices that could possibly leave impressions in their minds for many years to come. Though Mrs. Justice was strict at times, she knew when compliments needed to be given and when it was the right time to show affection to each of her students. One memory that sticks so clearly in my mind to this day was during her writing lesson on one winter day. Our assignment was to write a poem about a place we loved. I immediately knew what place I would write about: my parents' hometown in Pikeville. As I finished writing, I eagerly raised my hand and waited for Mrs. Justice to walk by my table. I forced her to read my poem and as her eyes crossed the paper, they began to widen. "This is excellent, Cam," she exclaimed. Mrs. Justice then walked across the hall to my future fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Maguet, and brought her back to the class to read my poem. My heart stopped when the fourth-grade teacher finished reading my poem, then looked me straight in the eyes and said that my writing was easily on a fourth-grade level. I don't think my head could have gotten any bigger.

Though I think all teachers should be recognized for all the patience and hard work they put in each school year, I believe that Mrs. Justice deserves to be recognized endlessly for her passion in teaching. Not only has she provided hundreds of children with an excellent education, she has also influenced many lives, including mine. Because of Mrs. Justice, I have decided to create a career in elementary education. My dream is to become as great of a teacher as Mrs. Vanessa Justice was to me in my third-grade year at Rosa Parks Elementary.

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