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Teachers Who Inspired Teachers: Mr. Zemke

Happy Friday everyone! Today may be the last day of Teacher Appreciation Week, but I hope we all remember to thank a teacher every day. They are the ones at the front lines supporting, inspiring and preparing our future. The final guest blogger in this series, Carrie Both, a primary teacher, mentor and decorated practicioner, shares one more story about the teacher who inspired her... and reminds us to always continue challenging ourselves, to keep climbing higher, even when we think we've reached the summit.


Mr. Zemke, by Carrie Both

I teach. I am a teacher. I have always wanted to be a teacher. My dad is a teacher. My mom is a teacher. My brother is a teacher. But... I have never had a teacher in my school career that inspired me. There was no teacher exceptional in my elementary school. There was no teacher exceptional in my middle school. There was no teacher exceptional in my high school. There was no teacher exceptional in my college schooling. I had been asked many times who inspired me to be a teacher. My answer was always no one.

During my first year of teaching, I realized there was someone who inspired me. This person was inspiring me every day--in the morning, in the evening, during my conversations. I never saw this as inspiration until I became a teacher.

This person was my dad. I never realized his inspiration until I became a teacher. My dad would get up early and go to work. He would come home in the evening for dinner with his family. He would take his 30 minute evening nap and spend time with us. Then he would go back to school and prepare for his students for the next day of school. I just thought that is what teachers do.

My dad continued to learn. He read a lot. There were always books in his hands. He received research opportunities in California, Texas, Maine, and Colorado during the summers. We followed him to these places. He wrote briefs and articles. He researched. I just thought that is what teachers do.

During my first year of teaching, I realized that not everyone came early. Not everyone came late. Not everyone did research. Not everyone planned. I had no idea. I thought every teacher did what my dad did. I then realized that he is the person that inspired me. He is the person who made me the teacher that I am. He is the reason I get up before the sun. He is the reason I lay my head on the pillow late into the night. He is the reason that I am always learning. He is the reason I push my students and myself to be the best.

I had been teaching for about 12 years. I came early, stayed late, planned extensively. I differentiated reading and math every opportunity that I had. Based off of my principal's feedback, I was good at it too. It felt good to see how students thrived with the "just right" teaching. Then my 2-year-old threw something in my face:  an iPad. This 2-year-old knew how to manipulate my iPad better than I did. Wow! How did she learn to do that? Could I? But, I was doing wonderful things in my classroom?! Wasn't I?!

Inspired by my dad, I took a risk and began the process of feeling uncomfortable. Many times I felt frustrated, defeated, angry over this process but I knew that I could do it and that it would make me an even better teacher. I learned. I worked harder. I almost threw that iPad a couple of times but I resisted, persevered and... I did it. I became a one-to-one iPad teacher. I use technology for students to create. I use technology to make personal learning videos for my students. I use technology to hear and see what my students are thinking while working with others. I use technology so my students can communicate with people in other parts of the world. I use technology so my students have a voice. I use technology for my students to empower their learning. I am not a techie and know I will never be one! But, I can share my knowledge with others. I can show others that you do not have to be a techie to make change in the classroom. I can show others that fear can be overpowered by passion for learning and passion for students.

I feel that I am inspired every day by my dad. Even though he may not be teaching in the classroom any more. He is teaching every day. I am teaching every day. I am learning every day. It is inspiring to be like my dad. It is inspiring to be a teacher. I hope that I will inspire my students and my own children to never stop learning, never stop working, and never stop challenging yourself.

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