As a continuation of my blog yesterday, here are several more stories from colleagues and friends about educators who have made a difference in the lives of their students. While we make a special point to honor teachers this week, these stories are a reminder that just as great educators work for their students every day, teachers deserve our thanks year around.
Mrs. Knox at Northfield Elementary School in Murfreesboro, TN
One of my best childhood memories is of the time I got to create a real painting in Mrs. Knox's fourth-grade class, on canvas, with acrylics! Mrs. Knox, thank you for teaching your students to love art as much as you do; it's something I have carried with me my whole life.
-Naima Khandaker in Columbus, OH
Miss Mary Kate Smith at Symmes Valley School District (Linville) Willow Wood, OH: 1967
I was a very backward child. Miss Smith had a way of talking to the class that made you feel like you was the only student in the room. I feel like I am a good teacher today because of her.
-Pam Lang, Symmes Valley Elementary School Teacher in Willow Wood, OH
Judy Landis, Rainbow City Elementary School, Rainbow City, AL: 1972
Mrs. Landis made a mark on me during my 3rd grade year. I had to move in the middle of the school year to Florida and I was devastated. Mrs. Landis continued to communicate with me through letters. I will never forget her compassion and ability to motivate me to learn!
-Trina Potter, NBCT in Charlotte, NC
Miss Yochum at Leawood Elementary School in Columbus, OH: 1962
When I had Miss Yochum as a fifth grader in 1962 she recognized me as a student who was bright and driven but overly perfectionistic. One day, after I got teary-eyed from missing a couple of words on a spelling test, she took me into the hall and talked to me about two things. She talked to me about how much she loved having me in the classroom and she told me that I had to get past this tendency toward perfectionism because it was ruining my opportunity to really enjoy learning. I've thought back to that moment often as I worked with my own kids and with others in a variety of classrooms.
-Dr. Mike Thomas in Columbus, OH
Becky Mobbs, Copper Basin High School in Copperhill, TN: 1993
The most challenging but inspirational teacher I have ever had. She pushed, pulled, cajoled, and often ordered me through the process of becoming an acceptable writer. She was truly "called" to teach.
-Dr. Jared Bigham, Executive Director of the TN Rural Education Association and Member of the TN Common Core Leadership Council in TN
Mrs. Whited at Centerburg High School in Centerburg, OH
Mrs. Whited really got to know me--not just as a student--but as an individual that she felt could make a difference in the world. She encouraged me to try new things and to push myself a little bit harder. She helped and supported me through all four years of high school and taught me things I never would have learned in just her classroom.
-Kelly Butler in Columbus, OH
Mr. Mercer at Country Estates Elementary in Midwest City, OK: 1968
My six grade teacher, Mr. Mercer brought history to life with his military experience and appreciation of Europe during World War II. He was able to portrait history with firsthand accounts that encouraged and inspired me to learn more.
-Ken Calhoun, Executive Director of Human Capital, Tulsa Public Schools in Tulsa, OK
"Mac", English Professor at The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH
His belief in all of us inspired me to become a teacher. Isak Dineson (Karen Blixen) in her novel, Out of Africa, notes that "you know you are alive, when you live among lions." That is how I felt experiencing two classes one summer quarter at The Ohio State University with my Professor "Mac." The English classes changed me because my teacher accepted the goodness in all of us and wanted us to be even better thinkers, speakers, readers, and writers. And, we felt we could be these intellectual flyers- and we could be so quickly. Was I in the right frame of mind and context? Sure. Could I have reached that sense of purpose - that centered "wow" feeling - on my own? Not sure. Mac's inspirational teaching gave me the feeling of capable- highly capable. Without exception, Mac's sustained passion was something I wanted to emulate and ultimately become a part of who I am. In an era where we are trying to quantify greatness in teaching, we have not necessarily forgotten, but turned our backs on the art of teaching. Every teacher should be different and the one common thread- not qubit- that will make them effective is sustained passion for helping students connect to content and for guiding them to that feeling of capable- uncommonly capable that you can live among lions.
-Tricia Palko, Middle School Teacher in Worthington, OH
Stephanie Burris, Assistant Principal at Fairview and Hemby Elementary in Indian Trail, NC: 2013
The teacher that has had a tremendous impact to the point of changing my life, is Stephanie Burris, currently an Assistant Principal at Fairview and Hemby Bridge Elementary in Indian Trail, NC. Stephanie was my mentor during my beginning teacher years at a Charlotte Mecklenburg Elementary School. Her consistent encouragement both inside and outside of the classroom were a life line to me. Because Stephanie so willingly shared her educational expertise and tremendous support during those early years for me, I am a better teacher today and my students are the better because of it.
-Samantha Hines, Teacher in Residence in Charlotte, NC
Denise Stovell at Tippecanoe High School in Tipp City, Ohio: 1990-1994
Denise Stovell is that particular teacher who I will always remember and think of so fondly. She was my friend, teacher and that person that made me try harder every single day. I got a chance to visit my high school last week and thank her for the difference she made in my life. She's a wonderful person and an exceptional teacher.
-Tracy Nájera in Columbus, OH
Mrs. VanOver, 2nd Grade Teacher, Ewing Lane Elementary School in Jeffersonville, IN
We were working on a math activity and I remember thinking, "Hey, if you can do this for 1 digit numbers why wouldn't it work for 2 digit numbers as well," and came up with several examples that proved my theory. While I had her attention I figured I would go for broke and asked, "Hey, instead of thinking about this in way X isn't it easier to do it this, this way?" Two things happened that likely have impacted my life forever. One, she called the principal in to say, "Look at what this kid did. I've never had a kid do this". At that moment I remember thinking "Hey, I must be pretty good in math" which was my major in college. But I think more important long term was her validating my ability to see the world differently from different perspectives. The ability to always ask, "from which perspective" when examining a problem has served me well over my career.
-Tony Bagshaw in Lawrenceburg, IN
Marsha Staggs at Academy of World Languages in Cincinnati, OH: 1992-1993
Mrs. Staggs was my first grade teacher, and while many teachers influenced my life, she rises to the top in my mind. My strongest memory of Mrs. Staggs' class is writing and illustrating a book about Mike and his bike, a story I wrote with her help. Mrs. Staggs was an incredibly caring and warm person, and many parents requested her for their children because she was known to be such a great teacher. Thanks Mrs. Staggs!
-Meredith (Ross) Bortz in Columbus, OH
Mr. Tom Masters, History and Government teacher in Worthington, OH: 1995-2000
I was fortune enough to have Mr. Masters both at McCord Middle School and then again at Worthington Kilbourne High School. He always made learning fun and encouraged us to make connections between our classes and life to better understand the world. While I always thought he was a great teacher in school, I was fortunate enough to come to know him better as an adult. Then, after more than 25 years of teaching and changing kids lives, Mr. Masters retired from Worthington Schools. As someone who now happens to work with schools, I was sad to see a fabulous teacher leave the classroom but happy for his successful career. After some time off, he now he acts as a substitute teacher on occasion to stay connected. This just shows you that great teachers, even the retired ones, deserve our appreciation! Thank you Mr. Masters!
-Emily Douglas in Powell, OH