The Mr. Borilla Project

         Who was the teacher who made a difference in your life?

April 22, 2008

Share a story about your most influential teacher…

Filed under: Share your teacher! @ 3:13 pm

Patricia Polacco wrote a wonderful narrative about the teacher who had the most influence on her: Thank You, Mr. Falker.  In the spirit of that wonderful picture book, I challenge all students and former students to write a narrative about their most influential teacher…as a “thank you.”

Now I am not saying I’m some type of Patricia Polacco, but I have been telling stories about the teacher who influenced me the most–Mr. Mike Borilla–for years.  You can read my memoirs about him at my own website:

A narrative can be a paragraph, a page, picture book, or an novel!  Great teachers leave us memories that are worthy of narratives of any size.  If you have a narrative to share, simply type/paste your paragraph about him/her into the “leave a reply” box below.   Describe how they inspired you, or tell a quick story about what a typical day/class was like with this teacher.  Extra credit well be generously awarded to anyone who posts a picture of himself/herself–or of their influential teacher–when they post.

Once your short description has been approved by our moderator, it will be made public here at this webpage.  Thank you for sharing with our community!


  1.   Normagene Reid — September 13, 2008 @ 6:29 pm    

    Mrs. Sanders was my second grade teacher in the year of 1967. She was a stern white haired woman housed in a soft build. I was a nervous child from a troubled home. Believing I was the only kid in the world with a terrible homelife of parents fighting and unpredictable outcomes were routine, I had a hard time getting into the groove of each learning day with Mrs. Sanders. We came from a small town in very Southern California, called Blythe. Everybody knew everybody in this dusty desert town.

    For some reason, Mrs. Sanders could see I needed some extra support to get me focused on learning. When I was most dispondent in class, she would call me up to her old rugged golden oak desk and open the center drawer to bring out a small pill bottle. In this bottle were tiny red pills. She would say, “Now take one of these ‘pills’ and they will make everything better. I’d pop the little magic jewel into my mouth and it would dissolve slowly as it spread its sugary blanket of protection across my tongue. She’d touch me gently on the arm or shoulder and send my back to my seat with a smile.

    Decades later, after teacher education and reflection on this event and aksing my mother, she never recalled sending medication to school. I now know these jewels to be a simple candy placebo sent by a teacher who cared enough to figure out how to make a tortured little girl a better student on the worst of days. Considering I never became a drug addict, I took the jesture as love for a student and I hope I can learn to meet my students needs just as Mrs. Sanders met mine, minus the dispensing of pills, of course.

  2.   Donna Acre — November 29, 2008 @ 8:12 pm    

    The teacher that made the most difference in my life was my kindergarten teacher. When I went to kindergarten, it was only a half-day program and not even required. My mother found a teacher who taught kindergarten in the summer. I went to the half-day summer program just before I started 1st grade. This was in 1965 and I had never been away from my mother for any reason except to spend the night with my aunt. I vaguely remember going to this lady’s house for “kindergarten.”

    Mostly it felt like fun but she did teach me the most important thing I’ve ever learned. She taught me how to read. Not to just read but the love of reading. Once I had learned to read the world was mine. I have never stopped reading. Today, I am a 5th grade teacher and I know it is all because of this one teacher. She so inspired me that I decided then and there, that I should also be a teacher. It took me a little longer than I expected and I did take a few detours along the way (just to make sure that I really wanted to be a teacher). It turns out that it was inevitable. The one most vivid memory that I have of that summer is that last day. After she had taught me how to read, she gave me the only present that would mean the most to me. She gave all her students a book. We got to pick the book by choosing a ribbon attached to a selection of books. It was magical.

    I wish I could remember her name then again maybe it’s meant to be unknown because this is for all those wonderful teachers that teach the most important thing in the world, reading.

  3.   Laura Amatulli — December 27, 2008 @ 10:18 am    

    When I was in fourth grade I was lucky enough to live in the most interesting community for any ten year old on earth.
    Medford Lakes, New Jersey was the largest log cabin community in the world and surrounded with history and folklore of the birth of the United States. Living between Atlantic City and Philadelphia and drawing from a rich history of the revolutionary war and the New Jersey Devil there were stories galore.

    Nokomis Elementary School was also blessed with the most gifted teacher to walk the planet. Mr. Dudley! He had a piano in class,
    he was a professional photographer, and he was the best entertainer you would ever know. Mr. Dudley took us everywhere. We visited the opera (Barber of Seville), the natural history museum (where he encouraged us to bring natural treasures to trade at the trading post, I came home with a real snake skin in exchange for a collection of large pine cones), we also toured Philadelphia including the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Going to these places with Mr. Dudley was magical, he told all the stories of the past as if he was really there. He loved being there so much that we loved being there!

    Stepping into Mr. Dudley’s class was like stepping into a vaudeville show. He would play the piano and we would sing everything from “Mac the Knife” to “Three Little Fishes.” We also learned traditional revolutionary war songs and a variety of Mr. Dudley’s own creations. The musical mix I remember most is when we had to bring in a science experiment. I brought in an olive jar of oil and colored water. After my demonstration we sang “oil and water just don’t mix.”

    In fourth grade I had set myself up to be picked on terribly. I would constantly over react to people calling me freckle face. I remember Mr. Dudley telling me one day in the lunch room that my freckles we nothing but sunshine kisses. He told me that my mom left me out in the sun with a wet face and the sun blessed me. I loved my freckles from that moment. Mr. Dudley used his photographer expertise and would take student’s pictures and display them in class. We made special projects with the pictures to give to our parents. When it came time to choose our pictures I chose the picture that showed the most freckles. Whenever I see that picture I think of how Mr. Dudley made us look at the world with new eyes.

    Thank you Mr. Dudley- where ever you may be!

  4.   Lisa Larson — April 28, 2009 @ 9:25 am    

    Mr. Stanley always played his guitar on Fridays after lunch. Always. Our fifth grade class would gather in a circle on the floor in front of him and he would strum his guitar and sing goofy songs about our lessons that week. He sang about the Dewey Decimal System and the solar system, fractions and freedom and reading and responsibility – it was the coolest thing that had ever happened to me at school! So the day that I came in from lunch and saw the guitar still in its case and Mr. Stanley perched behind his desk, I was livid.

    What had we done to deserve this? Who had misbehaved and gotten our music taken away? Who had disrespected Mr. Stanley and made him so mad that he wouldn’t sing for us today?

    I was going to kill that person.

    After everyone had trickled in from recess and came to the same realization that I had, we quickly sat in our desks, folded our hands in front of us and assumed innocent faces. There had to be some way to get the guitar and singing and fun back.

    Mr. Stanley slowly rose from behind his desk, his arm outstretched to the classroom. The brown eye clutched between his gnarled fingers stared balefully at us. We all sat in stunned silence. This might be as cool as the guitar.

    I don’t think anyone was prepared for the shininess, the loneliness, the utter grossness of the eye. Two weeks of reading, studying diagrams and drawing our own illustrations had not prepared us for the dripping orb watching us now.

    His gentle voice broke the silence as he walked between our desks, giving us a close-up look at the eye. After every student had seen it, he walked to the table at the front of the room and beckoned us forward.

    The first slice into the juicy globe shocked me and made my lunch rocket around inside my stomach, but when he flayed the side open and I could see the diagram from the textbook and my own illustration lying on the table in front of me, I was hooked. The absence of the guitar didn’t matter anymore.

    In one afternoon, Mr. Stanley had taken science from the flat, one-dimensional world where it usually lived and made it come alive. In that moment, I was certain that we were the coolest fifth grade class in the history of education and that I was the luckiest kid on the planet for getting to be a part of something so incredible.

    It has been thirty years since that day in Mr. Stanley’s class, but I remember it like it was yesterday. As a teacher now, I appreciate the effort that he put forth to make learning as fun and memorable as possible whenever he could.

  5.   Lou Ann Chilton McCarthy — April 28, 2009 @ 10:51 am    

    Lou Ann McCarthy
    April 28, 2009

    John Luster and Bob McMahon

    “Darn it! He was right on my tail!” My blue VW Bug started slowing down as the hills became more steep. Suddenly, Mr. Luster passed me, waving and laughing as he went by. The race was on once again! Which one of us could make it from Auburn to Placerville before the other in our new Driver Education cars? We continued to play chicken, passing each other as the curves on Hwy. 49 became more and more tight, the incline becoming more and more steep. Each trip we made a different person won. This time Mr. Luster won, as my VW Bug didn’t have enough power to compete with his Ford Pinto.

    John Luster, one of our Driver Education teachers, co-taught the program with Robert McMahon. At first glance, you might have thought that John was the more serious of the two, seeming to be more responsible and organized as compared to Bob. They both taught the classes, arranged for the cars to be brought to the high school, set up the simulator schedule, and were usually serious in front of the students when teaching class. Unless you knew John well, you would have thought that he had no fun in his life as compared to the “teacher clown” Bob.

    Underneath it all, John was actually as much of a clown as Bob. “Watch this,” he would say, as he played practical jokes on the students including myself, blaming them on Bob instead of being caught himself. These jokes could be anything from changing the movie reel for that day’s movie to something completely different, to changing the simulator settings causing students to drive faster or crash while they practiced their driving in the trailer.

    Bob, on the other hand, was laid back, watching the chaos continue realizing that he had caused a good amount of it. I remember him vividly, sitting in his chair with his leg crossed over the other, a large grin on his face, laughing and joking with both John and myself.

    For four years I was their assistant, helping to teach the class, grading all of the student papers, making hundreds and thousands of copies, helping to pick up cars at the auto dealers, and running personal errands as well. While being around both John and Bob, I was accepted as an equal; in the inner circle of the workings of two of the best liked, funniest teachers I could ever have had the privilege of knowing. They always treated me with the utmost respect, and taught me more than just dealing with problem students, problem situations, and just life than anyone ever could.

    My memories of these two teachers scatter over four years, hundreds of different situations and settings, and thousands of smiles, laughs and good times. I truly miss those fun filled, carefree days, and will remember both John and Bob, with great fondness, for as long as I live.

  6.   Jill Bayliss — April 28, 2009 @ 2:14 pm    

    Mrs. Reeves: Teacher of Climate
    By: Jill Bayliss

    “Ce La Vie, Ce La Vie, that’s just the way life goes, that’s life sometimes.” All the students who had volunteered the night before sang as we stood in line waiting for Mrs. Reeves, our sixth grade teacher to open the door and let us begin our morning. The other students kept asking us why we were all singing the same stupid song. Unfortunately, those that were not able to stay after school and make tamales would never really know how cool Mrs. Reeves could be.

    Mrs. Reeves was the epitome of cool. She had short choppy hair and dressed in the latest 80’s trends. She was famous for donning the tank top dress with leggings underneath and several different colored socks layered one on top of the other before finishing the ensemble off with a pair of bright white Reeboks. She listened to INXS on her walkman during our field trips and even drove a Porche! Those were the things that all of us knew about her; but, what those of us who made tamales for the sixth grade field trip knew, was that she knew how to unite a group of students from all different cliques into one cohesive whole.

    You see, what happened that evening after school in the cafeteria was something that none of us would forget that year. It was a group of mismatched students. We all had different friends, none of us hung out together, and yet Mrs. Reeves, in her effortless way, brought us all together. When we were working in silent assembly line fashion she went off quietly to get her BOOM Box. She brought it in and turned on the most popular 6th grade radio station, KWNZ, with Wild Bill Cody. She started singing along to all of the most popular songs, and before you knew it, we had all joined in. She even broke us up into groups and had us all sing different parts of the song. It didn’t matter what we had in common when we came into the cafeteria, we had something in common when we left – a memory that would last the whole year through.

    Mrs. Reeves was always doing activities to bring together our classroom. One of my favorite activities was “Glaser Circle” where we sat in a circle and shared student problems. Students were then asked to give each other advice to solve those problems. Once one brave student shared their situation, the rest of us would go around and offer advice. This whole process was supervised by the counselor and our teacher. I recall getting many compliments on my ability to help students resolve situations. This is something that has stayed with me for a lifetime. I remember noticing that the climate in our classroom shifted following those meetings. As a group we were more committed to each other, which led to more cooperation among us. There was a level of compassion for your fellow classmates that I had never experienced before.

    It was through experiences like these that I knew I was cared about in Mrs. Reeves’ room. Now that I am a teacher, I try to cultivate that same sense of community within my classroom. I want all of my students to get to know me as a person, the way I knew Mrs. Reeves. It is through my personal connection with her that I thrived that year and it is through the personal connections with my students that I thrive today.

  7.   Jennifer Noland — April 28, 2009 @ 2:16 pm    

    “Ingredients for Success”

    One kindergarten graduation, one six grade completion, one G.E.D., one Bachelor’s Degree, and one just recently added Master’s Degree later, I’ve been asked to reflect upon the 23 years of my life that I’ve spent in school. And, wow! I’m one lucky school girl because I didn’t have just one favorite teacher, I had a wealth of teachers who all made me feel I existed, I was human, and I wasn’t just one out of thirty who sat in the same seat day in and day out.

    3rd grade-Mr. Bayer. Every day after school he and I sat reviewing my math problems, relearning what I missed, checking my answers, and filling in the gaps that had just recently begin to tear through my confidence in the subject that haunted me for twenty years. Sitting right next me, talking me through each problem in that soft spoken, calm yet ensuring voice, he worked hours with me so that I could be successful. It was the first time I had experienced failure in school and what precipitated were twenty excruciating years failing and falling further behind. And yet, in all those years, he was the only teacher who took the time to meet with just me, to work with just me, and to help just me…in Math. Thank you Mr. Bayer!

    4th grade-Mrs. Asou: I’m sure my incapacity to learn Math, hindered my ability to tell time on an analog clock. These were the days when you actually had to tell time on the good, old-fashioned analog clock with its one long hand and one short hand and I could never remember which one was the hour and which one was the minute. And then, the funny red hand that spun so quickly, and how was I supposed to know what all those tick marks were for? My mini horror movie began every time I was asked the dreadful question: “Jennifer, what time is it?” I had snuck by long enough and Mrs. Asou had caught me. It was time to tell time. Each day, while the other students were engaged in a busy task at hand, loud enough so no one would hear me, Mrs. Asou would call me over. For ten minutes we would practice telling time on the big, cardboard clock. Just her and I… moments in time telling time. I’ve been a time telling champion ever since! Thank you Mrs. Asou!

    7th grade-Mr. Wong: Ooey, gooey, chewy, chocolaty earthworm brownies. The path to my extra credit lay in my willingness to indulge in these extra special treats. Mr. Wong, my seventh grade teacher, was constantly striving to find creative measures to engage his students. This was one of his many tricks. And how could I resist? I wanted the extra credit and how cool would I be if I ate one? I’m not sure I ever earned the “extra cool” status I was looking for, but Mr. Wong sure thought so. Walking up to the blender where the mashing took place, eyeing the seemingly innocent appearing brownies, I took a deep breath, a big bite, and a muffled swallow! I did it! Mr. Wong looked at me then, just him and I, and his smile was as large as mine! Thank you Mr. Wong!

    11th grade-Mr. G: In typical high school fashion, I went to the extreme to get attention. On this particular day, like many others, clothing was my bait. Thigh high tights and short shorts were the fashion: I decided to pair them together. Extra high lace trimmed tights and extra small short shorts. A tank top to match and parading around school I went. As I crossed campus, I was spotted! Mr. G had made eye contact and straight towards me he walked. What followed was a sharp, direct, to the point lecture on what I was wearing and how unlady like it was. Standing there, him and I, getting exactly what I wanted: a response. But, this time I felt ashamed…I had let him down. Yet, shame was quickly replaced by a creeping sense of empowerment that has yet to be contained! Thank you Mr. G!

    23 years and numerous moments in time later, I am grateful for the teachers I had that made me feel I existed, I was human, and I was NOT just one out of thirty who sat in the same seat day in and day out.

  8.   Jenny Hoy — April 28, 2009 @ 3:11 pm    

    I was lucky. He wasn’t just my teacher, he was also my tennis coach, and in most respects, my mentor. Even today, I call him or email him with simple questions of good teaching, how to guide a wayward student back onto the path of academia, or how to deal with complexities of day-to-day life. And, he always does it with a story.

    One of my first memories of him was in a large college lecture hall. The room was large with stark white walls. I was sitting near the front with a clear view of the green chalkboard, with my legs swinging back and forth, because they didn’t touch the floor. The auditorium was filled with students listening to his booming voice tell the story of how the world stopped on November 22, 1963. He was professor of the year, and his class was full. Students were furiously taking notes, yet were not afraid to ask questions. Although I sat silently, I would look at my scribbles and know they were meaningless compared to his words. I think this was the moment I fell in love with stories. He made a very complicated, scary moment so clear through the simple act of telling a story.

    It should be no surprise to anyone who has ever met me that I was never the tallest of students and it bothered me a great deal for a very long time. I mentioned this once to him in passing and he asked me what I was going to do about it. I replied with frustration that I couldn’t do anything about it; it was just the way I am. He said, “Exactly! You can’t change it, so don’t worry about it. However, your strength of character should be the largest presence in any room you enter. If you can achieve this, your physical height will never be an issue.” As difficult as this task sounds, it is a thousand times more difficult to achieve. I can’t say that I’ve been perfect, but it is something to which I aspire. He does it daily, seemingly without effort; but I know from my own experiences, it requires a level of faith in myself that is so overwhelming; yet this ideal gives me the courage each day to stand up for what I know is right. This mind set allows me to live a life free from many of the stresses that might result from “convenient decisions” rather than the sometimes more difficult paths I chose.

    I remember winning my first tennis tournament and jumping up and down with joy, until I saw him frowning at me. I danced across the court to ask him what the problem was, after all I did win! He said that part of sportsmanship is to lose with grace, but to also win with humility. My behavior did not reflect his philosophy and he would prefer if I would show some respect to my opponent and not gloat! Many years later, ever the historian, he wrote a book about the history of sports in America. He dedicated it to his three sports-loving granddaughters, with this explanation in his acknowledgments: May they learn the importance of competing hard within the rules, and understand that the inevitable setbacks they will encounter—in sports and beyond—must be a prelude to trying harder and preparing for the next challenge. His use of sports as a metaphor for life is never-ending. What he taught me on the tennis courts has carried into my daily life. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m relentless and don’t give up until the last point is played. I’m competitive, always with a drive to win; but only within the rules. Although, I have been known to make a few “close” line calls! And when I lose, count on me being right back in the game the next day ready to find a way to win.

    Over the years, he’s been called Mr. Davies, Coach Davies, Professor Davies, Dr. Davies, Dean Davies, Vice President Davies, and for a short while, on a Colorado campus, President Davies. To a few special students, he is simply known as Doc; but, to me, he’s always been just Dad.

  9.   Deanna LayPort — April 28, 2009 @ 3:32 pm    

    He turned from the counter after paying for his meal and to my surprise he knew who I was. His name was Fred Horlacher and he was the best teacher I ever had.

    I never thought of being a teacher, until I sat in his 11th grade US history class. He found a way to make the boring jump from the pages of our textbook with activities. He was so passionate about the past and getting 16 year olds after lunch to care about it, which I’m sure wasn’t easy. Those who just couldn’t engage and fell asleep quickly learned not to do it again. For after falling asleep, his unsuspecting target would be unloaded upon with a hot pink squirt gun.

    It is not so much that I remember exact conversations, but rather that he made leaning fun. I do remember fanning out all over town looking for the bright yellow trail markers of The Donner Party and I certainly remember the water balloon fight on the grass between the north and south during our version of the Civil War or the flag I made which I still have that flew on the lawn that day during battle. Or the pain staking paper, I wrote on the adventures I had on the Oregon Trail and how I lost my daughter on the journey.

    He helped to make me the teacher I am today and instilled a love of the past, especially US history. That day standing in that Burger King restaurant, I was lucky enough to tell him what a difference he made in my life and the lives of my students. When I think about a lesson, I think what would Fred do? How would he have made this fun and engaging?

  10.   Gaylene Williams — April 28, 2009 @ 6:13 pm    

    Within the spectrum of learning there are numerous elements that ensure student success. Initially, student learning begins at home with mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles and other family members. Learning is fluid, observed and participated in, not always memorized and studied. Real teachers are a part of our lives. Teachers who inspire possess the ability to connect with their students, give pieces of themselves’, learn from their students and guide them along the path of knowledge and change. Teachers who touch lives do not do so based on lessons with direct instruction or because they motivate their students to think at a higher level. Rather these teachers inspire because they touch every aspect of their student’s lives. Teachers who have influenced me are remembered by the feelings their memory evokes and the fact that they gave of themselves while leading me by example.

    Sheila Meibergen was one of the first professors that connected with me on this level. Although, I cannot easily name the classes she taught at the University of Nevada, Reno, (UNR) I distinctly remember that she cared about me and my success. I was not struggling academically but personally as one of a few Native American students in the education program at UNR. Sheila shared with me that as a person of color she also had felt disconnected with other students in her educational experiences. These were not discussions that were held in a classroom but when I had the opportunities to meet with her outside of the classroom. She helped me gain the strength and courage to say out loud “I am Native American and I am going to focus on the education of Native American students.”

    Another teacher who left a lasting impression on me is, Glenabah Martinez. She was the first woman, full blooded Native American professor that I had at the University of New Mexico. She quickly became aware that I was new to the city of Albuquerque with no friends or family besides my two children. When she found out I was struggling with daycare issues for our evening class she invited my children to accompany me to class and wait in the office outside of our meeting place. She understood that my education was important but that my children were more so. Though I admired her and learned much from her in the classroom it was her act of kindness that I (and my children) remember the most.

    These teachers touched my life and left a lasting impression. By connecting on a personal level, they demonstrated that they genuinely cared about me as a student and were readily able to ensure my success. They influenced the way I teach, provided me an example of empathy toward my students and demonstrated the importance of my role as more than a classroom educator. The individuals who have inspired me through their caring have enabled me to be a better educator.

  11.   Donna Chaney — April 28, 2009 @ 6:16 pm    

    When I was in school I had very good relationships with all my teachers. Being self motivated, I was never the type of student who got extra attention from my teachers, in the form of encouragement, to keep going. I had some great teachers growing up, but no one was more inspirational than any other. My inspiration comes from 2 colleagues, who just happen to be teachers; and eventually became my best friends.

    I was hired to be a sixth-grade teacher and began my first year six weeks after the school year began. At the beginning of the following year, it was decided that my class would be changed to a 5/6 split. I would be given 12 sixth- grade students and 12 fifth- grade students. Most of the students I was given were generally all around good kids. However, I was given some challenging students and those students outweighed the good ones and made teaching a very difficult challenge. The year continued to go from bad to worse. I wanted to quit. As much as I loved the job, it just wasn’t worth it. Two years in a row I had some challenging students that I wasn’t prepared for and I didn’t feel I was supported by my administrator or some of my fellow colleagues.

    Jan Eakin and Pam Matherly-Larson were my co-teachers in the 5th grade. They made sure to ask me often how things were going. Each day I would tell them how tough this class was, the problems I was having and that I was considering a new profession; and each day they would tell me that things would get better, and not to let these challenging years ruin teaching for me forever. They would relate experiences they had had with challenging classes and examples of how they dealt with similar situations.

    My class never did get along but we ended the year very happy to be moving on. Had it not been for Jan and Pam I might have quit teaching at the end of that year. It was their encouragement which inspired me to go on and not give up. They took the time to help me realize that sometimes challenging classes happen and that there would be more of them in my future. Thanks Jan and Pam, for your encouraging words and support. I owe you more than the friendship we have forged over the past ten years.

    Donna Chaney

  12.   Jan Eakin — April 28, 2009 @ 6:22 pm    

    “Read! You want to read!! I can’t read all that.” These words I used throughout my school years and into young adulthood. Reading had always been a problem; I had not inspiration to read. I could read if you call word-calling reading. I often stumbled with pronunciations and give up long before a paragraph w as ended. By the age of 22 I had given up reading most thing especially if I didn’t have to. Reading a book completely was a chore so I did everything I could not to.

    When a friend suggested I take a reading class with her the thought gave me chills, not of joy, but of terror. Not only as this reading class, but this was a college class. I would look like a fool; I didn’t want anyone to know my little secret… I was not able to read very well. I have to tell you my first night of this reading class at a local community college was a major turning point in my life.

    The instructor, Mrs. King, was a large woman in her late 50’s. Her hair was salt and pepper with a more gray than black in it, she wore it in a long braid down her back. Her clothes were strikingly bright, bold colors, right out of the sixties; in fact I’m sure she had been a hippie. But when she spoke the world listened. She made everything seem simple if you only tried, anything could be accomplished. Even reading…

    Over the next few months she worked patiently with me, teaching me skills and strategies to improve my fluency and remarkably my comprehension. The most important skill she worked with me on was, to build my confidence. She gave me a romance novel to read and told me I had to have it finished before the next class. Two hundred forty seven pages… I not only finished that book before class but I had started another one. I could hardly believe it.

    I am an avid reader now and love to read to my students. I feel like I’ve been given the torch, love of reading. This wonderful woman passed on to me, now it’s my turn to pass in on to my students. So, thank you Mrs. King for giving me the opportunity to carry this torch and pass it on.

    Inspiration is a funny word. The dictionary says it is a divine influence or actions on a person believed to qualify him to receive and communicate sacred revelations. I think they should add the name Mrs. King to that definition.

  13.   Keith Rand — April 28, 2009 @ 6:24 pm    

    A Model of Equanimity – Mrs. Hackett – My Third Grade Teacher by Keith Rand

    Before I was in 3rd grade, I was often in trouble at school because of my short temper. During an argument with a girl I had liked, I kicked her in the shin and got sent to Mr. Parodi’s office. The principal asked me, “What is your reason for kicking her?” I replied, matter-of-factly, “I was angry.” Mr. Parodi continued, “Well, yes, but what was the reason for that reason?” I simply glared. Why did I have to justify myself to someone who wasn’t going to hear me anyway!

    Ever since I was a toddler, when kids picked on me, I always felt like I was misunderstood. It was, to me, as though some horrible injustice occurred. In the beginning, I felt helpless and just cried, but by the time I was in elementary school, I usually ended up getting into a fight. Some adults, like the principal of Mesa Robles elementary school, took the attitude that I should “man-up” and stop acting out every time another student hurled an insult at me, pushed me or hit me—which, it seemed, was all too frequent (there was no such thing as an anti-bullying movement then). Teachers seemed distant and unconcerned with the things that transpired outside of their classrooms. When they were on duty, I usually avoided them since I was either likely to get in trouble or have my complaint mishandled. For the first half of first grade I even had a teacher that had told my mom quite bluntly that she didn’t even like children. My parents were comforting when I went to them, but they seemed powerless to stop the petty injustices that were a daily reality in my school life, so I stopped bothering them with my troubles. By the second grade, I was firmly convinced that if I didn’t take on my detractors, no one else would!

    One afternoon, I was having a problem with a particularly obnoxious boy, Robbie Orson, while waiting in line for the bus. It seemed that my last name was amusing to him and he had a way of pronouncing it and rhyming it with nonsense syllables that he knew I couldn’t stand. I’m not sure what I was about to do (and I was about to do something) when the duty teacher saw I was getting into a dispute and made me move to the end of the line. Surely, I thought, justice had been thwarted!

    I was determined to set the record straight—to let this teacher know that she had misjudged me, that I was innocent and that Robbie was the instigator. I ran up to her and stomped my foot in indignation and let her have a piece of my eight-year-old mind. I yelled out my complaint, including some choice words, and in my second-grade-way accused her of being unfair and careless because she didn’t see what really happened. Now, I expected my parents would be called, I would tell them what happened and they would just comfort me until I got over it. But the duty teacher just stood there, looking at me obliquely and raising her eyebrows. The unexpected reaction took the wind out of my sails. I went back to the end of the bus line and sat down. I didn’t know what to think about her reaction, but oddly, I wasn’t angry anymore.

    It was shortly before the start of the school year, at the beginning of third grade, when I found out Mrs. Hackett would be my third grade teacher. I wasn’t sure who that was until my mom explained that she was duty teacher I had cussed out at the bus line. My mom knew about that? I felt a tangle of conspiracy tighten around me. I could just imagine the telephone conversations and meetings that had gone on behind my back. My eagerness to return to school that had been cultivated by a summer of boredom was suddenly replaced by a breathless sense of apprehension. What was Mrs. Hackett going to do with me? Was I doomed to be watched like a troublemaker, forever misunderstood by all teachers from this day forward because of one incident, one misunderstanding?

    Soon, I found myself sitting in Mrs. Hackett’s classroom. It was cool, calm and uncluttered. There were only the cabinets filled with paint and paper and the reading and math books piled on the counters and the double desk-tables with the front-loading compartments underneath and other familiar objects. The room provided no resistance to the intentions of the teacher. It was a vessel suitable for assimilating not only knowledge, but also character.

    Mrs. Hackett was not what I expected. Her way of explaining things was clear. I never had trouble understanding her—she made sense to me. She had a gentle disposition and listened to my ideas, always encouraging me to try them out in a class project. We built a shelter in the classroom out of palm fronds once (I guess there were no fire regulations, then) and she let me put parts of it together when I had ideas about how to solve the problem of keeping it from falling over. I started going to school thinking about what I would get to do in Mrs. Hackett’s class instead of worrying about the next time I would get picked on. Optimism prevailed, my inner anger faded. I remember that I smiled all the time. On Valentines Day, I brought Mrs. Hackett a round cherry-flavored layer cake with cherry frosting that I had baked myself (from a mix, of course).

    I was still picked on and I had my down days at school after that, but I never lost my optimism and respect for teachers—the ones who did what they did because they cared about kids like me. I cannot ever forget the way Mrs. Hackett conveyed her regard for me and gently redirected my energy from the destructive to the creative. I try to be like her when I teach my own students.

  14.   Kelly Nott — April 28, 2009 @ 6:24 pm    

    Warmth from Shade
    By Marianne Kelly Smith-Nott

    He no longer wanders the dimly lit, crowded halls. He no longer warmly greets new students with that genuine, gleaming-white, toothy smile…welcoming the lost to “come on in.” That same bright smile appeared in his sparkling, jet-black eyes…seeming to open the doors to the cold, shadowy hall…making anyone feel safe, wanted, and truly cared for as they enter their new surroundings at Traner Middle School, I remember that terrified feeling as I peered out the steamed up windows of the overcrowded, yellow school bus.

    WE had all grown up together, attended the same school…even if we didn’t always have the same teachers. WE…the soon to be 6th graders from Sun Valley Elementary in the mid 70’s…all heard the gruesome stories about gang fights, drugs, having to “dress out” and shower for P.E. in front of others, and being assaulted in the hallway bathrooms without anyone knowing by “those black kids.“ WE were the “outsiders from Scum Valley” being bussed to the “Hood” where the “Crips” and the “Bloods” were prevalent. WE were the first group of 6th graders to venture into middle school…WE were the new kids on the block, taking that first timid step off of the noise-filled bus onto the silent and still black asphalt walkway that led up to those doors of doom.

    Coach Shade was as “cool” as his name. You knew from the day he welcomed you in…that you could trust him with anything, be yourself, and share anything dark in your life. He stood up for you when others of color treated you badly and called you names just because you were white. I remember when I performed a sorry dance in a long dress for the talent show…I looked across the gym…no parents…just kids giggling a bit and pointing…but he smiled and clapped…even though I had no rhythm to dance to “Brick House.”

    I look back, reminiscing about the comfort he gave, joking with him, laughing with him about being twins (we shared the same birthday, June 3rd…however he was black and I was white), crying on his shoulder when others were picking on me or when my “first love” dumped me just before the Sweetheart’s Valentine dance. Or what about just being a nerdy, awkward, GT kid with ADHD that alienated herself from just about every sport or new thing I tried?

    Did I mention that he was NEVER my teacher in PE or any other class? He taught me so much about humor in life (especially when it seems like death to a preteen), what is important (those whose lives you touch), and what isn’t (what others think of you)…and acceptance. He helped me to accept myself during a very awkward time in my life, I was a late bloomer in all ways, my parents were divorcing, and I was leaving the comforts of my neighborhood to be bussed into a neighborhood that my parents had moved from to provide me a better education and life. Did I tell you that he now lives (and has for many years) in my neighborhood?

    The best part is…my most recent memory…a way he touched my life, was to give me a gift that I once gave him. He had saved a poem/letter that I had written to him for our “last twin birthday” at the end of my 8th grade year. The paper had aged, yellowed with time…the ink not quite as vibrant as it once had been. He had saved it for all of years! I couldn’t believe it! He gave it to me for my 40th birthday in front of my dad, my husband, and my family.

    I’m fortunate as I occasionally see him now…at least once a year, usually in the spring at Gepford Ballpark …walking around with that same gleaming-white, toothy smile, greeting every one of his former students, their aging parents, their children, and in some cases their grandchildren, as he did that very first day of school. “Wow…” I thought to my self…”I always thought it was just for me!”

    Some of us are still lost—others still finding our way…his weathered yet still sparkling, jet-black eyes…making us feel safe, wanted, and truly cared for…still holding that door open toward our destiny. And…if I were to enter the halls of Traner Middle School as I once did so long ago, he would always be a permanent fixture to me.

  15.   JL — April 28, 2009 @ 6:25 pm    

    I don’t know if I was the only one to receive an invitation to her house; maybe I don’t want to know. I remember that day so vividly. Mrs. Sanchez, my fourth grade teacher, stopped me in the hall and asked me if I had ever seen newborn bunnies. She continued to explain that it was spring and her rabbits were having babies. She described how the babies were hairless and pink. Pink? I just couldn’t imagine such a thing. I must have asked her a million questions. But, she just smiled and answered every single question. Suddenly, she asked one single question that shocked me. She asked if I wanted to visit the babies at her house. I could merely nod my head.

    Mrs. Sanchez accompanied me home that day and asked my mom for permission to take me to her house the next afternoon. I was thrilled when my mom said yes. I didn’t sleep much that night and I fidgeted in class most of the day. I was anticipating what was to come that afternoon. During the day I couldn’t help but wonder why she had invited me.

    I really couldn’t come up with a plausible reason for the invitation. I was just a normal everyday kid. I wasn’t the smart kid, the cute kid, or even the teacher’s pet. I gave up trying to figure it out and I was glad she invited me.

    The time finally arrived and we were in her car on our way to her house to see the babies. She showed me around her house and introduced me to her son. He was really tall. Of course, I was only eight. I thought we’d finally go outside to see the bunnies, but she offered me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She knew that was my favorite snack. To be polite, I accepted. She said we could enjoy our snack outside in the garden. At last we were going outside. Finally! But, much to my dismay, I didn’t see any bunnies.

    We did enjoy our snack in her beautiful garden. I remember feeling so grown-up, just sitting there having a girl to girl chat. Her garden smelled so good. There were lots of blooming flowers all around us. Once we were finished, she took me around to the side of her detached garage. The entire side of the garage wall was covered in little cages. She showed me a few older babies and I held a couple. The bunnies were so soft. Then, she took me over to a separate set of cages. She let me look in, but cautioned me not to touch the babies and not to make loud noises. She said the mommies would eat their babies if they got upset. I couldn’t imagine anything grosser than that. It made no sense to me.

    Long before I was ready, it was time to go home. When she saw my disappointment, she said we could visit again sometime. On the way home, I remember thinking that there must be something special about me because she didn’t invite just anyone. Teachers don’t normally take students home. To this day, I still don’t know why she took me home. I just know that she touched a little girl in a very special way that she will never forget. Due to that experience, I have more confidence about my place in the world.

    It is the example that Mrs. Sanchez demonstrated that I remember most. She wore the most welcoming smile. The smile is the strongest memory I have of her. She also possessed tremendous patience; I remember asking her question after question. It amazed me that she never seemed to tire of the inquisition. It didn’t matter the subject; she would answer every question. Most of all, she took time to learn about the child, the student.

    This is what I try to take with me to school everyday. I make every effort to show the students that I believe in them and in their abilities to accomplish what they think they cannot. Often, it only takes a few kind, personal words to make a difference. I pray everyday that I am successful at building confidence in students. It is important to me to see the whole student and not just the academic student. One student, Luis, gave me a glimpse of hope that I may have been successful. He will never know how much that little glimpse means to me. I will remember Mrs. Sanchez and Luis for all time. Mrs. Sanchez showed me how to care and build confidence and Luis showed that I can accomplish it.

  16.   Lisa Smith — April 28, 2009 @ 6:26 pm    

    Thank You, Mr. Foyle, For “Seeing” Me in the Crowd
    By Lisa Smith

    I do not know if Mr. Foyle had ever personally moved from a small school to a large one during his formative years but he seemed to know exactly what I needed in order to feel safe because here I was, a shy little country bumpkin, in a new extremely overwhelming school situation. I didn’t realize it at the time how his small acts of genuine concern would be remembered in such a sensitive way in my heart because I see him now as a teacher who sincerely “saw” me and truly cared about who I was.

    My father’s employment made it necessary for our family (mom, dad, me and three brothers) to move from our farm in southeastern Idaho to the sprawling metropolis of Phoenix, Arizona the summer between my fifth and sixth grade years. The school we had attended in Idaho was a quaint K-12 school with a total student body of under three hundred where we had one class per grade level, senior graduating classes or around twenty students, and where I knew everyone in the building – children and adults. Contrast that very comfortable environment with a new school setting where I found myself at a K-8 school where the sixth grade alone had four or five classes and where my brother’s new high school had almost four times the number of students our entire school had previously had. Culture shock! Oh my – there just aren’t the words to describe it and I discovered a shy side to myself I hadn’t previously known existed.

    Sixth graders rotated for every subject which was a foreign practice to me. My desk was usually on the far right side of Mr. Foyle’s sixth grade English classroom, close to the wall and about half way back in the row of desks. Mr. Foyle was extremely tall and had bodily and facial features that amazingly resembled Abraham Lincoln. When he spoke, it was as a gentleman – deliberate, firm and regal yet extremely comforting and reassuring. I don’t remember him having to get after students very often. He showed students a great deal of respect and because of that, along with the fact that his very stature commanded ones attention, students seemed to reciprocate a dignified type of respect toward him.

    I can visualize him pausing at my desk while handing back assignments, bending his tall frame down slightly to be able to look me in the eyes to say on various occasions things like: “This was the best work of the class, Lisa”, “Very beautiful handwriting, Lisa”, “Great job, Lisa”. He made a point of verbally making me aware of his admiration for my efforts and seemed to go out of his way to build me up in personal, quiet ways and of course, I worked extra hard so as not to ever disappoint him. Such small and simple gestures yet when I think of my time at that school, his face, that room is what comes to my mind first.

    I know I quickly thanked Mr. Foyle on the last day of school that year but I never saw him again because we moved to another location that summer. I would surely love to let him know how much his kindness and genuine concern has meant to me over the past forty years. It’s amazing to think it’s been that long since sixth grade because so many of those memories are just like they happened yesterday. Mr. Foyle helped me weather a very difficult transition period in my childhood and I will forever be thankful. If I could, it would be nice to look him in the eyes and tell him thank you for “seeing” me when I felt like such a lost little fish in that very large ocean of a school.

  17.   Temoca Dixon — April 28, 2009 @ 6:26 pm    

    Jeesh, she was nuts! Western Traditions was my first class back into the swing of college and I got the nutty professor for a semester. Dr. Giddings hurled ideas at us, she weaved in and out of cramped college desks flapping her wings at the grand ideas of the universe, and she asked us, “Why?” for heaven’s sake.

    I plugged along and loved brimming over with intellectual knowledge that is usually reserved for lunch at the square in San Francisco. The first writing assignment was a response to Gilgamesh. I wrote insightfully and offered new ideas to contemplate. I turned in my paper sure I belonged in higher level education.

    Red loops, red slashes, red question marks, red running all throughout my paper as she handed it back to me. Dr. Giddings didn’t even give me a grade. She wrote, ‘See me after class.’ in red. I stumbled back to my seat and told my Dad, who had just gotten his paper back, “I’m not cut out for college. I don’t belong here.”

    I met with Dr. Giddings and she gave me the usual advice, go to the writing center, get a tutor, look for a book on MLA writing…etc. I teetered, and then finally asked if she would have time to meet with me to explain her expectations. We met at Starbucks on a Saturday afternoon and Dr. Giddings inspired me to learn everything and more.

    My final paper came back scribbled on in red.

    Temoca, after I pull myself together I must tell you honestly, this is a catharsis. In all my years of teaching I can tell you, you have a gift for writing. Write a book. Help others. Never stop learning.

    Thank you, Dr. Janet Giddings. You have inspired me. And I don’t know how you did it, but you spoke my dreams out loud. I can only hope I will one day do as much for someone else.

    ~Temoca Dixon

  18.   Fran Lenae — April 28, 2009 @ 6:28 pm    

    Ah, yes, the high school years. It was the early 1980’s in Las Vegas and I was a junior in high school. Some of the good times during the four years involved being a self acknowledged homely kid. I enjoyed hanging out with my homely friend, Tina. We thought we were hilarious and an overall asset to the school environment. The dreadful times included giving oral presentations. I was one of the kids that felt queasy and tasted sour bile in my mouth even thinking about everyone’s attention focused on me.

    Fortunately, I had a wonderful teacher to guide me through just such an ordeal. Her name was Ms. Profraser. She taught English Literature to the juniors at my school. We can all list the kooky English teachers we’ve experienced, but Ms. Profraser was different. She was thoughtful and deliberate in her instruction. The homely girls got just as much attention as the comely girls. She made difficult concepts easy to grasp. I rarely spoke to my teachers, but I felt I could talk to Ms. Profraser.

    During the year, Ms. Profraser assigned us a project that had to be presented to the class. I can’t remember exactly what the project was, but I do recall thinking I’d never be able to speak in coherent sentences in front of the whole class! When the day finally arrived, I stood in front of the class, my face burning with embarrassment as my peers strained to hear my barely audible voice. I desperately searched the class for comfort. My eyes found Ms. Profraser’s. My racing heart slowly calmed as I recognized from her eyes that she had confidence in me. My trembling voice evened out, and I was able to complete my presentation without expiring from fear.

    Who knows what grade I earned; the memory that endures is that I was rescued by the confidence Ms. Profraser had in me. It was powerful. Ms. Profraser, thanks for helping this former homely girl succeed!

  19.   Durdana Qureshi — April 28, 2009 @ 6:31 pm    

    We have many “favorite” things in life. Some things we get rid of as our favorites and others are quick to grasp, but the true one thing in life that anyone will always remember is their “favorite” teacher. My favorite teacher is a person who gave me a purpose for doing what I do best. This person is someone who believed in me, perhaps more than I believed in myself. I met my favorite teacher in my own years of being a teacher and in everything I do I remember her. My favorite teacher is Dr. McIntosh.

    Dr. McIntosh is my favorite teacher because she is quite refined in her teaching methods in preparing a career portfolio. I first met with Dr. McIntosh when I was attending a special project workshop in December 2001, a course offered by the University of Nevada, Reno. The class was offered on a compressed video feed to parts of rural Nevada, and focused on developing an extensive teaching portfolio. That one visit with her made me remember her for days on.

    Dr. McIntosh is an amazing teacher because of her individual interactions with students and her sincere, genuine interest in her student’s work. She would often give multiple opportunities to her students and would even say, “I’m home on weekend, you can drop your assignment off at my home.” She’s encouraging and motivating, and has a variety of different teaching methods. That is something I respect and see in myself.

    Dr. McIntosh is a master teacher. Her instructional skills are at the master level and her direction and procedures are clear to students. In my opinion, she has become an iconic figure at the University of Nevada, Reno. Dr. McIntosh is a perfect role model and establishes a high standard of education in her class. She is an enthusiastic teacher with much wisdom.

    I would like to thank Dr. McIntosh for the wonderful experience she provided to me in her class. She instilled confidence within me that has encouraged me to be successful. I will never forget when she told me, “You are an amazing teacher and an asset to Washoe County School District.” Her impact on me was crucial in guiding me to become a positive role model, striving for excellence in my own classroom.

    Durdana Qureshi

  20.   Katherine Hoffman — April 28, 2009 @ 8:57 pm    

    My favorite teacher was unlike any other teacher that I have encountered. She was someone every adolescent student feared. She’s a teacher that my friends and I still talk about. As I think of her, my thoughts take me back to Saint Phillip Neri Elementary School in Alameda, California. My world in 1970 was structured and full of discipline. My hometown was a conservative island with a huge military presence. Vietnam was raging, as were the riots in Berkeley. The tumultuous times helped many Catholic families embrace the strict expectations established in my parish school where Sister Teresa Ann was our steady leader. The authoritative presence of Sister Teresa Anne (T.A., i.e., Tough A..) was unmistakable. She was Mother Superior, the Principal, and my 8th grade teacher.

    The high school math placement exam was coming and we practiced for two weeks, two hours a day – even one Saturday. The drill and kill routine dazed the class. T.A. was displeased about the class “checking out.” From of her pursed lips she barked, “Heads up, eyes forward, feet flat on the floor, backs straight, NOW!” I wished for the sound of the scratching chalkboard to keep me awake as she wrote simple algebra problems over and over again. As we continued to work, her full black habit slowly drifted down the aisle; her icy blue eyes pierced her prey for the slightest of infractions. No one dared slouch, sigh, or tap their foot. Her pale whitish pink skin turned red as she honed down on a nervous pupil. Michael squirmed often on this day. Finally, under pressure, he lost his composure.

    Michael will be remembered forever as the kid that was denied the bathroom pass. He kept holding up his forefinger but he got the look; he knew, we all knew, when we all learned algebra, he could then take care of his business. An hour went by, then two. A dark yellow stream started at Michael’s desk, flowed under Patty’s, then crossed the aisle breaking off into tributary branches, a big one running toward my desk. Raising my feet, I let the mighty Mississippi move freely without ruining my freshly buffed white leather oxfords. As T.A. saw the chain effect of kids raising their feet and making eyes at the rising water table, her face went beet red as she screamed, “You are never to discuss this matter outside of this room!” Micheal struggled to stand in front of 50 of us; his empty dark eyes were focused on the beige floor tiles. With soaked gray pants hanging low on his waist, our eyes looked down at his black squeaky shoes as they moved slowly out the back door.

    As a class, Michael’s embarrassment was our embarrassment. Anyone of us could have been in his place. From that point on, we did everything possible to avoid the marathon math lessons with T.A. We did our homework and we formed study groups after school. In turn, T.A. did allow “comfort breaks.” No one ever abused the privilege. She did eventually show us her kinder side. The school year ended and most of us did an exceptional job on the H.S. math entrance exam. Sister Teresa Ann’s military style persistence gave me the tools I needed to succeed. I was able to do math well. More important, was the faith I gained in myself. In 8th grade, Sr. Teresa Ann gifted me with confidence and self-discipline. It has been a gift of a lifetime! Thank you, Sister!

    Katherine (Hagan) Hoffman
    Class of 71’

  21.   Meggin McIntosh — April 30, 2009 @ 4:05 pm    

    WOW…THANK you for sharing this with me, Dena & Corbett…and to read Durdana’s comments…it gives me goosebumps and makes me pretty emotional. I remember her of course, and I remember her daughter, also. I was fortunate enough to get to teach both women. I hope they read this and know that I appreciate them, too.


  22.   Kelly J Eveleth — April 30, 2009 @ 8:49 pm    

    I’ve discovered these wonderful responses as a result of FaceBook. I’d also like to add some positive words for my most excellent teacher. While I had good teachers during my youth, an understanding of excellence was not divinely experienced until adulthood when I was already identified as a teacher myself.

    Durdana Qureshi has eloquently described a woman who has been my best teacher also. Durdana has written my experience with my teacher when she states, “This person is someone who believed in me, perhaps more than I believed in myself.” This is one of her gifts, to see the strengths others have inside and then have the discernment and courage to tell that individual. She truly cares about her students and encourages you when you are willing to take steps to reach forward.

    So, thank you, Dr. Meggin McIntosh, for your willingness to teach excellence. I imagine many others have greatly benefited from your desire for excellence. And, many others I see you influencing in the future.

  23.   Jen — June 20, 2009 @ 7:21 am    

    Throughout my school career, I was fortunate enough to have my share of great teachers but it was Mr. Knight who made the most impact on who I am today.

    I had always been an average student, a student who did the minimum amount of work just to slide by with average grades. One day in particular stands out in my mind. As I sat in one of my high school classes, bored to tears, a group of “gifted” students passed by the window on their way to a school enrichment outing. I remember thinking to myself, “.gifted kids receive all the extras to enrich their education, special education students receive extra one-on-one support to make sure they succeed, but what about kids like me, the ‘kids in the middle’? Why don’t we get something to make our school more meaningful and interesting?”..

    Lucky for me, I met Mr. Knight. Mr. Knight was the first teacher to push me and set high expectations for all of his students. I thrived in his class. He presented material that was thought provoking and interesting- something for which I’d hungered year after year. He was strict but he knew me as an individual. I knew he cared enough for me to get me to think about things and to push me past my comfort zone. He helped me to consider myself as intelligent and worthy of my thoughts. I had a true awakening as a student- I wasn’t average as I had always considered myself all of those years. During college, I was on the Dean’s List and went on to obtain my master’s degree in education.

    Today, I’m an educator and in my classroom, I teach to a wide range of abilities. But because of Mr. Knight, I set high expectations for all of my students in a positive environment. All of my students, whether they be on the lower end or higher end of the ability range, receive a stimulating educational experience. But most important, I also recognize that the “kids in the middle” want and hunger for that kind of learning as well.

    It has been over 20 years since I saw Mr. Knight yet his influence has carried on throughout my 14 years as a classroom educator day after day.

  24.   sandy — March 29, 2010 @ 5:45 pm    

    Thank you for being yourself

    How can I remember so little about a person I loved so much? Sixth grade was a year with a lot of firsts. It was the first time I got sent to the principal’s office. On the very next day, it was the second time I got sent to the principal’s office. It was the first time a boy in class was taller than me. It was the first time I was positively sure my teacher was smarter than me. Mrs. Feinberg expected my best from me and some how she got it too.
    Diane Fienberg was tall like me. She stood out in the crowd, Mona Lisa in a mohair sweater with long wavy locks. She must have loved teaching to be in such a school. Her smiles were easy and plentiful and reached through her eyes. Her brow could be stern, able to wither me back to my rightful size. She was patient. She accepted my eccentricities, like when I crossed my t’s with too much flourish. She laughed at my jokes. As my 7 year old son would say, I was crushing on Mrs. Fienberg. I wanted to be her as bad as I wanted to be a Charlie’s Angel. Nice, smart and pretty, she kept my busy.
    I’ve no doubt I was a challenging kid. In the classroom I excelled. An annoyingly straight A student who questioned everything and everyone, I was a strict rule follower and enthusiastic volunteer. My sense of right and wrong was different on the playground. I was a Jeckel and Hyde with a whole other skill set.
    My Denver elementary school “play” ground was not an easy place to survive. There were traditional set of swings and monkey bars, hopscotch, four square and then no man’s land was out in the fields. Our school was over 60% Hispanic, I was the white minority. Because of this and because of my size, I was a target. But, being a natural athlete paid off time and again. Fight or flight was the name of the game. Every day at recess we went out to the fields. If I thought I could win a fist fight I’d hold my ground. If I was too outnumbered or circled up I would run. “Red Rover, Red Rover, send Sandy on over.” And I kept on going. After school I’d follow the leader of the pack home to see where she lived. I would quietly, one on one, confront her and explain, “Now that I know where you live I can kick your ass anytime I want to. Leave me alone.” This tactic worked time and again without fail. I was after all a girl of my word.
    By the time I was nine people started going for easier game. I was the 3rd grader who could beat up the 6th grade girls and boys. So, word got around and I didn’t have to fight anymore. My brother 2 years younger had it easier, because everybody knew who his sister was. Where were the playground duty teachers one might ask? Who knows? Maybe they were afraid too, huddled together next to the cafeteria door. Maybe they looked the other way when I had the upper hand. Maybe they were glad so-and-so was getting schooled, old schooled.
    He must have figured the teacher would protect him in the classroom, because I owned the playground. Safely sitting, building paper Mache masks, suddenly the room tilted. I was hanging suspended in my desk. You know the kind with a metal bar attaching the seat to the table top. It was tottering back on 2 legs with the front two legs held up in the air. I could move neither forward, back nor to the side. I felt like a turtle on its’ shell strapped into a roller coaster looking at the sky before the plunge. Limbs flailing, I looked up to see a boy’s self satisfied freckled face.

    Surprise, “Hey put me down.” Grin.
    Frustration, “Put me down.” Wide grin.
    Anger, “Put me down or I’ll kick your ass.” Wavering grin.
    Berserker, “If you don’t put me down right now I’ll…” Grin gone.

    With concern setting in, I think he realized he had a tiger by the tail. We had come to an impasse. I could do nothing but boil until he let go. I don’t think he meant for me to fall backwards and hit my head, but I did and it hurt. I came up fists balled ready to dispense Old West justice. But instead of my treacherous enemy in front of me, it was my teacher Mrs. Feinberg. She looked at me and told me she’d take care of it. I swear she had an aura about her she wore like a yellow cloak of calm against my raging angry storm. Eye contact, I dissipated. I couldn’t stay angry under her scrutiny. With kindness she commanded that class continue, and with the offender sent to the principal’s office I soon began again to dip strips of newspaper into the Mache mix to make my mask.
    I never exacted revenge. For a first, I didn’t follow through on my threat. I didn’t need to, my anger was gone. I could feel good about myself without making someone else feel bad. Mrs. Feinberg believed in me when I was at my best and at my worst. When someone else believes in you that much, you’ll strive to be worthy of their respect. And, strive I did. Between three 6th grade classes I was chosen as the Most Outstanding 6th Grade Girl that year. I thank Mrs. Fienberg for fueling my fire, my desire to be a better person than my surroundings often allowed. She was the right role model at the right time. I’m a better person as a result of her efforts. Mrs. Feinberg I thank you for being your wonderful self.

  25.   Michele Zepmeisel Erikson — March 29, 2010 @ 5:51 pm    

    The Big Kid Hallway
    by Michele Erikson
    Heading into fifth grade meant that I got to go down the big kid hallway where all the cool things happened. I was in Mrs. Tinsley’s class; she was in the second class on the right side of hallway down from the main office. Mrs. T, as she preferred to be called, had black puffy cruel hair and big rimmed glasses with brown frames. When you came into her room her desk was in the back right corner near the window with student cubbies behind her. It was weird to have such a big black board, but I never knew why they called it that when it was really green. We had a wooden door with a small glass window in it only for adults to look in on us.
    Ms. T called us by our full name during the first role call but after that she assigned us nicknames. Mine was Zep, which is short for Zepmeisel. I thought that was really cool to have someone give me a nickname other then the people on my block. During her lesson I would be mesmerized by the way she could talk and not loss her gum, which she would of bought that morning from 7-11. Every morning she would go to 7-11 and see her husband to get a large coffee, buttered roll and a pack of gum. But let me get back on topic. Her most fascinating thing was she would always touch her thumb to each of the fingers, but she did this only on her right hand. For the longest time I would just watch and wonder what she was doing? Then she would call on me and I wouldn’t have a clue on what was going on. She would say, “Zep where are you?”. I would say “I don’t know”. Half way into the first week of school she told us that she played the flute when she was in grade school. I think she only told us that because there where four or five of us that started lesson again for the year.
    She took us on some amazing journeys that made us a strong class that stayed together. That year was many firsts for me; we made it into the lunch time finals of fifth grade volleyball, playoffs in kickball and neat trips. With my mom as the class mother we did some wild and crazy things; that there are no way you could do them now! We went by car yes I did say car! Four to five kids in each of the parent’s car on a trip the Whaling Museum in Sag Harbor and to a Seafood lunch (crab legs, octopus, shrimp, flounder and squid) after that. Who in there right mind would take a bunch of kids in their car on a trip that was about an hour away and feed them a seafood lunch. Man did that lunch give me some nightmares, about octopus climbing out of my throat and taking me back to the ocean. But back on topic it was outstanding to sit in a restaurant with my class and favorite teacher.
    The best thing was when my class threw my mom a surprise party for her birthday. Mrs. T gave me a dime to call my mom on the pay phone by the main office to have her come to school. I had to act sick which wasn’t hard for me to do since in fourth grade I would make daily trips to the nurse’s office. She made a t-shirt for my mom that said “A-Z You’re the best”, that’s speical because my moms name is Anita Zepmeisel. She made me feel so special by not only giving me a nickname but also doing something special for my favorite person in the world. Now that I’m a teacher I loved when I got the chance to sub with my favorite fifth grade teacher and see how I have changed but she still had that cool, relaxed and fun teaching style!

  26.   Kathie Zoglman — March 29, 2010 @ 5:56 pm    

    Mrs. M.
    By Kathie Zoglman

    Mrs. Martell wasn’t a professor. She was technically an advisor to student teachers. She appeared fragile to me. Aged, I guessed 65 to 70 years old. She had a thin frame, weighing maybe a whole 95 pounds. Dressed in a suit and heels, she appeared very much like the professional, yet I was worried she wouldn’t hold up to the demands of her job. Little did I know that this little lady would have a profound impact on my career and life.

    Determination was the first attribute I saw in her. Having my last name begin with Z made me the last to be assigned a mentor teacher. Well, they ran out of mentor teachers in our third and last semester of mentor teaching. That left me out. She went to bat for me. She came across the name of the mentor teachers that dropped out of the program, and zeroed in on the one teacher that was requested by 25 to 30 percent of the students in our group. Mrs. Finch had decided to spend more time with her groom than a student teacher. Mrs. Martell convinced her other wise. She convinced Sharon I’d be giving her time, not taking time. How or when she became so confident in my teaching abilities I’ll never know. Never the less, Mrs. Martell secured for me, what so many other students in our program wished and hoped for; one of the best master teachers in our area, first grade master teacher, Sharon Finch.

    When she walked into our room, that’s what Sharon insisted it was, Mrs. Martell was stealthy. Mice made more noise. I’d turn, and there she was, smiling. Nervously, I’d continue to teach the lesson. Afterward, she’d walk up, give me a hug and say, “Wonderful, you’re doing great!” Then she’d sit down a reveal all the positives. That was Mrs. Martell. She showed me how to be a teacher by modeling what she felt was important. One of those things was to focus on what the student (me in this case) was doing correctly. Following up, we brainstormed how to make my instruction better. I never heard, “Wrong. This is what you should do.” She focused on the positive. That gave me courage. It built up my confidence. I started to feel secure. I became daring and creative. I started to come into my own, using my ideas and creativity. How could I not, I had two of the best cheer leaders behind me; Mrs. Martel and Sharon Finch. Mrs. Martell helped my find my own teaching style and Sharon said go for it; the more I went for it the more time she had for her new groom.

    Where we where I don’t remember, I just remember hearing Mrs. Martell’s voice saying loud and clear, “E nun see a shun!!!!” Then she quietly explained that I used complete sentences, and used proper grammar (remember she pointed out what’s done correctly, first), then she moved on to ask, “How will these first graders spell “for” if I continued to say, “fer?” That’s when I realized that I truly did have an accent in my speech. Thanks Dad. Several professors in my sophomore year told me I needed to get rid of my accent. My response in a slow southern drawl was, “Accent, what accent, I don’t have an accent.” Mrs. Martell said modeling was important. She also pointed out that pronunciation had an affect on spelling. Through our discussion I reflected upon my own problems with spelling. I never spelled barbed wire correctly. I had always said it incorrectly. As country kids we all said, “Bob wyr.” So that’s how I spelled barbed wire until I heard it pronounced correctly. It had never occurred to me that our county dialect and accent had anything to do with my spelling difficulties. Amazingly, guess what I got rid of, and guess what got better. Through their constant coaching, “Speak slower. Enunciate.” The accent went bye, bye, and suddenly spelling was much easier.

    When the last of three semesters of my student teaching came to an end, I stood before Mrs. Martell in my newly purchased suit and heels. She hugged me and said I would land a teaching job even though teaching jobs were scarce and hard to come by. She said I was ready. She fostered the attributes of a good teacher. She was to me as Leigh Anne Tuohy was to Michael Oher (The Blind Side). I was the stone, she the sculptor. And she was right, again. Maybe I acquired some of her determination, I landed a teaching job that started the next fall. Mrs. Martell got my feet firmly planted, then said, “Run, have fun, enjoy the rewards of what you’ve worked hard to achieve.”

  27.   Scott Nelson — March 29, 2010 @ 5:57 pm    

    I remember a lot of different things about the year 1992; George Bush Sr. had recently become president. Jeffery Dahmer had finally been apprehended after dismembering his final victim. My mom was about to get remarried. However, the memory that most vividly in my memory was that of the exciting times I spent with my 6th grade teacher, Ms. Radtke. Ms Radtke was the most gorgeous teacher I ever had. She had striking features; high cheekbones and she displayed the most adorable set of dimples every time she smiled.

    Yet what I really admired about Ms. Radtke was her ability to generate my interest in literature. One day I heard her and another teacher discussing the similarities and differences between the movie and the book of Last of the Mohicans, which was recently released in theaters that fall. When they spoke they discussed how a love story was included in the movie that was not in the book, and that a character gets his heart ripped out by an Indian.

    The next morning I woke up to my alarm clock to Aha’s song Take on Me. I walked up to the mirror to brush my teeth and I began to think of the discussion of that I heard between the teachers and begged my parents to buy me an abridged version of the Last of the Mohicans book that they were selling by the Walgreens drug store by my house. I read the book in one sitting, captivated by the story of an Indian hell-bent on revenge and the tragic outcome to the stories characters. Suddenly, I had a new interest in American history. One day Ms. Radtke saw that I was reading a book by Tom Clancy. She had all the Jack Ryan novels and she lent me each and every one of them from her personal library. In the past, I felt like just a number, but Ms. Radtke didn’t just treat me like a student, she treated me like a person.

    World War 2 was always one of my favorite units in school, particularity the subject of The Holocaust. One day I walked into class after lunch and Ms. Radtke was playing swing music from the World War II era. The irony of hearing the cheerful music made me feel uneasy, knowing from studies in class of the fate that would soon await the Jews.

    But what really set Ms. Radtke apart from the other faceless individuals from my past was her ability to offer creative projects that were engaging and interesting. Most teachers just drilled and killed me with bookwork throughout the years. Ms Radtke’s assignments were so much fun that you could not even resist to not doing them. She allowed me the creative freedom to express myself freely in my writing.

    I always had a wild imagination, I got in trouble in the third grade when I was asked to write a Christmas story and I decided to write about a shoot out between Santa Clause and Clarence Bodiker, the villain from the movie Robocop in the North Pole. I think many teachers just could not appreciate my unconventional style of writing. However, Ms. Radtke tended to reward my creative risk taking approach to writing. At Christmas we had an assignment where we had to write a story, and I chose to write one on Robin Hood. I enjoyed writing the story so much that when it came time to turn in the story, I left it on a cliffhanger and turned it into a serial, handing other parts of the story in to her each week.
    Every Sunday night when I was in sixth grade I would watch my favorite T.V. show: Siskel and Ebert and would often read the critics reviews in the newspaper. Whether I agreed with the critics or not I had to admit, these guys could write. Thus, it was my dream to be a film critic when I got older. We had book reviews in class, so I started rating my books just like Siskel and Ebert, I had my star scale and would try to come up with witty lines when I trashed books that I didn’t like.

    For the first time I would get excited whenever I had homework that allowed me to be creative, I didn’t want the year to end. Finally, June approached and it was time to go. I gave Ms. Radtke a big hug and was sad that she was about to disappear from my life. The end of the day came and I walked out of the front door as the day was at a close. I stared at the street awaiting my ride feeling empty, and unsure of the future that was unknown. It took six years before I would begin to enjoy education again as I continued to get the same teachers who would continue to drill and kill me with passionless styles of textbook teaching. I began hating homework and school once again, but I would never forget the passion and enthusiasm that Ms. Radtke brought to the classroom. Alexander the Great once said, “I am indebted to my father for living, and am indebted to my teacher for living well.” Had I never had a teacher like Ms. Radtke, who knows if I would have ever have begun to love literature, persue a future, or continue the legacy of career where I can attempt to change other people’s lives.

  28.   Diane Frank — March 29, 2010 @ 6:08 pm    

    Memories of Mr. Myers
    By Diane Frank

    I am sure every school has a certain teacher that has the worst reputation for being the meanest, toughest, and grizzliest of all. At Libby Booth elementary, Mr. Myers was the one every student talked about, and not in the fondest of ways. I vaguely remember hearing about him from kids on the bus and the tall tales they would say. I could only imagine in my little head the worst scenarios possible and they were all true, right? No way could be a teacher be that mean. I definitely didn’t want that teacher.

    On the last day of fourth grade, I opened up my report card and pulled out the last report for the year. Scan grades, fine. Scan remarks my teacher, okay. Scan next teacher assigned, oh no!!! I am in Mr. Myers class. The most horrible creature on the face of the earth was going to be my teacher. Why do I always get the hard ones? Of course I got the usual ribbing from my friends, sister, and any one who heard the news. Would I survive the year in tact? Would I come out in one piece?

    Suffice it to say, Mr. Myers didn’t disappoint on the first day of school. He ran the first day like we were new recruits drafted on the Army or Marines. We were told the rules, expectations, and what we were going to learn. I still remember him saying, “No craziness will be tolerated. This is my classroom and you are students. Try and remember that.” With his gray hair smoothed down and his thick black rimmed glasses, Mr. Myers always appeared ready for battle each day. His classroom was sparse with only the bare necessities but I do remember stacks of books at the back of the classroom.

    The most memorable thing about Mr. Myers was that he wasn’t the meanest or cruelest man on the face of the earth. He was actually a great teacher. He had a way of explaining math and to show algebra wasn’t an abstract concept that I couldn’t learn. Turns out I really can do math and understand how numbers are not something to be afraid of. I was gaining confidence in my learning. Mr. Myers did that.

    Mr. Myers always did art once a week and he tied what we were learning in math to the art project. The lesson had to do with geometric figures and the use of positive and negative space. I completed mine without any difficulty while my classmates groaned that they didn’t get it. He came to my piece and showed the class what the project could look like. I had never had a teacher use my work as the example before. I felt like I was a real artist. Mr. Myers did that.

    Another thing I liked about Mr. Myers was he treated all his students as equals. A case in point was the person who sat next to me. She was the class pet in other classes and I was sick of it. That prissy girl who thinks she’s better than anyone else. That girl who thinks the world rises and sets when she enters any room. That girl. She thought she was so cool and she expected to be the pet with Mr. Myers. He of course did not receive the memo and she was to toe the line like the rest of us recruits. I secretly loved that about Mr. Myers. Mr. Myers did that.

    We also had P.E. every Friday. He would come dressed in his black and white striped shirt like he was ready to ref a real game. He would use his whistle with short bursts of stopping and starting. Mr. Myers was a real fit man who looked like he could run the Boston marathon today.

    I am not sure if I became a teacher because of Mr. Myers but I know he was a great influence on me today. I can remember his attitude of being firm but never mean. Always point out what you like in a piece of work and appreciate the effort it took. Show various ways of learning and teaching. Appreciate art. Run and have fun at recess.

    When I was began my student teaching, I was assigned to Libby Booth. What a coincidence. I would now be a teacher at the school I want to as a kid. I had to soak up the realization that I had come full circle in my life at that time. I walked the grounds to see my old classrooms. I couldn’t help but visit Mr. Myers fifth grade classrooms. It was a sixth grade classroom now, but I can remember his desk and the piles of books at the back of the room.

    I was fortunate to see him once at Libby Booth. I found out he occasionally substituted there even though he was semi-retired. I felt all those emotions like I was back in the fifth grade. Nervousness, skittish, and pride could describe me. Even though I knew he wouldn’t remember me, I introduced myself and told him I was a former teacher. He gave me a strong handshake and asked me about my teaching. I gushed and told him things that I can’t recall. I have never seen him since. I was hired to teach at Libby Booth and I occasionally sit in his old room and recall my fifth grade year.

  29.   Lyndi Cooper-Schroeder — March 29, 2010 @ 6:09 pm    

    Scrawny Ronnie Underwear
    Written by Lyndi Cooper-Schroeder, a former student

    I was truly shocked when I found out he was only 23. I was 14 and I thought 23 was young and handsome and COOL. I mean Paul McCartney was 23! But this guy: he had really deep, dark circles under his eyes. He had thin dull hair with a widow’s peak above his very high forehead. He was halfway bald already! He couldn’t be 23! He was so skinny the only thing that kept his pants up was that he wore this weird old worn-out belt that was less than an inch wide and couldn’t have been more than 26 inches around. He tucked his strange pale green striped bowling style shirt tucked into his funky gray pants so high up the bottom of his tie was trapped inside. Who dressed him in the morning before school anyway?

    I remember the day I met Ron Underwood. I was an 8th grader choosing my high school classes for freshman year. He came to our Quonset hut classroom at La Loma Junior High and told us about a class he called “Discussion Techniques”. I liked to discuss everything…who knew there were techniques for discussion? It sounded like too much damn fun to an overly extroverted girl like me.

    After another hot as heck Modesto summer, September 1964 finally arrived. I was one of those kids who couldn’t wait for school to start. Not because I was especially good in class, but I loved everything else…Tri-Y Beta Chi Epsilon at the YMCA; playing clarinet and drums in the band; basketball games in the gym; dances with real bands (not records) playing fast, cool songs like “I Saw Her Standing There” by The Beatles, and dreamy, romantic songs like “When I Fall in Love” by The Lettermen. I totally dug the idea of writing stories and taking pictures for the school newspaper and the yearbook; cheerleading was the best thing of all; well, actually it was tied with being on the debate team! I loved it all already and I’d only been at Downey High one day.

    So it was the first day of school, first class after lunch. 5th period Discussion Techniques. I was curious. How was this skinny, scrawny man with sticky-outy ears and a small voice going to teach us how to give good speeches and win debates?

    It’s been a long time since then and I’ve often tried to figure out he did it. How do you teach kids confidence? How do you make awkward teenagers feel like winners before they’ve ever competed? Mr. Underwood never said, “This is how you give a good speech” or “This is how you win a debate”, but somehow he taught us that and more. I spent the best part of every school day for all four years of high school with Mr. Underwood. Behind his back, we called him Scrawny Ronnie Underwear, but we meant it in a good way. He made us happy to spend our weekends on school buses riding to Lodi and Stockton and Turlock to compete in four rounds of debate and three rounds of individual events like impromptu and original oratory and dramatic interpretation. I was a cheerleader on Friday nights, but I was a proud debater all day Saturday.

    How did he teach us so much? How did we do so well? My debate teammates Liz Stone and Pat Loughlin were voted “most likely to succeed” in our class. She became a widely-respected (by both sides of the aisle) legislative analyst for the State of California. He turned into a law professor at an Ivy-League school and a big time white collar crime prosecutor in New York. In the class ahead of us, Ann Veneman grew up to be a member of the President’s Cabinet as U.S. Agriculture Secretary. (It was George W. Bush’s Cabinet, but still!)

    Mr. Underwood taught us how to dig for evidence, and how to be ready for any argument the opposition threw at us, and how to think AND talk on our feet. He taught us how to express ourselves so people believed us, and how to say what we meant so we believed in ourselves. He didn’t have any kids; we were his kids! It is no exaggeration to say he changed my life. Nobody else in my family had ever debated or given speeches or graduated from college. But I did! My mom and dad taught me plenty of things–but the important stuff? I got that from Mr. Underwood.

  30.   Joan Brick — March 29, 2010 @ 6:10 pm    

    Mr. A—How a Teacher Can Change Someone’s Life
    Written by Joan Brick, a former student

    He bounced rather than walked into the room, the anticipation of a new group in his English class casting a glow in his eyes. An average-looking man, but one, I was soon to discover, with charisma. He was unknowingly about to change my life.

    The 1960s, 11th grade English, thoughts of boys, cars, clothes and parties filled my head. I was in a business curriculum in high school; secretarial work was my “lofty” goal. Computers were a thing of the future; now I faced typing on a manual typewriter or, if lucky, one of the few electric ones the school possessed. I was good in shorthand, although I didn’t like it. I was good in basic bookkeeping. I would make money.

    The first day of the semester, as I sat in Mr. A’s English class, my thoughts were on anything but the written word. Summer had ended, and all the autumn activities were about to begin. I remember seeing a man with a dark suit enter the room. How can anyone wear a dark suit in this still-warm Michigan September? I wondered. And it looks like wool—I bet it really itches!

    Well, itch or not, from the start, Mr. A. treated both literature and grammar with a passion that was nothing short of contagious—at least for me. He made everything come alive. He showed us that we could laugh, could actually ENJOY literature. I remember the day we discussed a certain chapter in Huckleberry Finn. “Huck Visits the Grangerfords,” a chapter on a very serious topic, made me laugh so hard I had tears in my eyes. It told of Emmeline Grangerford, a young girl who possessed an abnormal preoccupation with death. She composed an ode, comical despite its somber tone, to a young boy who died as a result of falling down a well. I have to give Mark Twain credit for creating humor in this situation, but Mr. A. can also take a bow for making this one of the funniest, most enjoyable lessons I have ever had.

    I also remember the day he came into class quoting from “Maud Muller,” a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier. “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’” We all sat there, silent, not really knowing what to respond. And then, with a seriousness belied only by the twinkle in his eyes, he asked, “Don’t you quote poetry at home? What do you talk about around the dinner table?”

    Mr. A., so full of life, so vibrant, his red-veined nose suggesting, perhaps, more than a passing love of liquor. We knew he wasn’t married and tried to imagine what type of woman would appeal to him. He wasn’t handsome, by any stretch of the imagination, but we knew that you couldn’t help but have a good time with him. And that is why we were so surprised—no, AMAZED—when he showed up with Miss E. to chaperone a dance! We found out later that they weren’t just two volunteers there together—they were THERE TOGETHER. Why, Miss E. was his exact opposite! She was tall and slender, with red hair. He was short, solidly built and, as best I can remember, losing his hair. She was quiet to the point of being mousy; he was full of life. Maybe the saying “opposites attract” isn’t all that far off.

    I said that Mr. A. changed my life, and he did. I scrapped the idea of entering the business world, opting instead to become an English teacher. This is a decision I have never regretted, a decision for which I will be eternally grateful to Mr. A. Now, fifty years later, I recall a discussion with a college professor I know. He maintained it is more important to publish your research so that a vast number of students can benefit from it. Although I don’t dispute the value of academic publication, I must disagree with him. I maintain that it is more important to touch the life of even one student, to make a difference in even one life. If I can change someone’s life, as Mr. A. changed mine, I would consider my career as a teacher a success.

  31.   Dawn Callahan — March 29, 2010 @ 6:50 pm    

    To Find Myself
    By Dawn Callahan
    It was just me and my mom during my high-school years. We lived in a poor part of town, in a small house that was ready to fall apart. There was always an odor of decay in my life during those years.
    School, at least during my freshmen year, was frightening. I constantly worried about what others thought about me. Fear permeated my very skin and culminated in my physical education class taught by Mrs. Rita Smith.
    Without a doubt this was the class I detested the most. It wasn’t the fact that I sucked at sports that brought me down. Rather, my gym clothes were so terrible that I could hardly stand walking out the locker room in front of row after row of my peers. The maroon, nylon shorts I wore were so short I was always worried my underwear peeped out and I was certain it was so. Butt cheek always threatened to show itself and I could feel the eyes of boys turning their heads and laughing. The other component of this horrifying outfit was the shirt. Luckily, it saved me somewhat. It was so long that if I was careful I could hide the shorts completely.
    Because of this self-inflicted humiliation I didn’t dress-out for P.E. on several occasions. This resulted in two things: first I had a low grade. Secondly, and more importantly, Mrs. Smith couldn’t stand me.
    My P.E. teacher was a tough and trim woman who demanded respect. Once, she made it very clear how she felt about me and I’ll never forget that moment in time. Even though, as I’m about to explain the incident, it won’t seem like a moment anyone would like to remember, it was a turning point in my life.
    It was before class. Several other girls and I were in the locker room changing. I had a question that no one else knew the answer to. Cautiously, I tip-toed to her open office door, “Um, Mrs. Smith?” I asked quietly.
    Before I knew it, the door was slammed in my face and a not so kind word was mouthed through the glass window that peaked into her office. I turned away shocked, angry, and humiliated.
    I had no idea what I could have done to make her dislike me so much. I even tried to approach her about it but chickened out. Her unspoken advice was that I should figure it out myself.
    The incident caused a change in me. I took a look at myself trying to see the person she saw and I didn’t like it. I put no effort into building skills in myself. I talked about people behind their back instead of encouraging them. I was full of insecurity that I hid behind a wall of pride.
    Needless to say, because of that petite yet strong teacher I gradually made changes in myself. And therefore as time went on and I continued my efforts Mrs. Smith began to take more notice in me. There were more smiles than scowls when she saw me. It may have been that since she had to see me year after year she finally gave in, but to me I felt she was noticing my growth. With her guidance I became captain of the schools dance team, which she advised.
    She was always full of encouragement for me and I could finally say, “I like me.”

    By my Senior year I was still very poor and couldn’t afford to be part of the team, but Mrs. Smith paid the fees for me. This action taught me kindness and how giving can change the world. She certainly changed mine. She taught me that I was worthy and capable of doing great things.
    I recall one very hard day, where I was struggling teaching some small section of a new dance to my dance team and Mrs. Smith told me that I had a gift of explaining things to people and I should become a teacher. I decided to try an education class on her advice and I ended up loving it. Once I finally got into the classroom I loved it more than I ever thought I would.
    It is remarkable what one teacher can do. After I graduated from college and received my first teaching position I went back to my high-school to thank her. However, she had already retired. To this day she probably doesn’t know how much I appreciated her. But, who knows, maybe she’ll see what I’ve written here and know she is loved.

  32.   Madelyn Read — March 31, 2010 @ 10:22 am    

    What Became of Cathie Coe?

    “Narrative and Memoir Writing” would begin in March. Since I’d registered in February, I had a month to stew, obsess actually, about what I would write. Memories drowned me; they bubbled to the surface, came up for air and descended back down again. I could not turn my brain off. Every waking minute I thought “what I will write?” The actual words and phrases, paragraphs even, paraded across my mind like an endless marching band on a football field that has no end. Trance-like I drove on the freeway, thoughts churning, churning, churning. I could hardly sleep. I began with one segment of my life and then switched to another and then back again. I had roughly three completely different topics in mind and three different beginnings for each.

    Arriving on that first day, I see the final topic on the white board– YIKES It can’t be – - A specific topic — WHAT! “Write a memoir about your favorite teacher”. Favorite teacher – F a v o r I t e t e a c h e r! NO! NOOOO It can’t be, a whole month wasted on thoughts of my childhood and to think that my goal for the last year has been to live in the moment.

    Thank goodness the teacher added, “You can be creative.”

    I really can almost name every teacher I ever had all the way through high school. I mean, every teacher since kindergarten (and that was 52 years ago) but a favorite? The only way to get to a favorite is to go through THE TEACHER MEMORY BANK and see what I come up with. I’ll try really hard to find a favorite.

    I wracked my brain. What memory would come when I thought of each teacher?

    Kindergarten – Mrs. Olin, sweet-faced, curly grey-haired Mrs. Olin: A kid put a bottle of ink in the fish aquarium and killed all the fish. Not enough of a memory to declare Mrs. Olin a favorite. 1st Grade – Mrs. McKustion — Only clear memory there is that every day after school I used the bathroom and every day, one block from my house, at least a mile away, I wet my pants. 2nd grade – Mrs. Schlager: If I had to choose a favorite from K – 12, she would be it. “You are the best speller I have ever taught’” said Mrs. Schlager; I beamed inside, so, so proud of myself. 25 years later, Pammy (even her name is nice) Schlager showed up at my bridal shower and told all of my friends that I was her best speller ever; I will always love that woman; she was the first person, besides my parents, who thought I was smart.

    3rd grade – Mrs. Hollinger: taught us the hula. That could rank her as a favorite, but I have a memory of that day that clouds third grade. One day during music, Robert Jordan was being his old, probably today we’d say, ADHD self, when the music teacher had had enough. He told the boys to catch Robert. Robert ran like a mouse about to be trapped, and I witnessed one of the worst sights and sounds I had ever heard in my young life. At least four boys did what the teacher commanded; they held Robert’s hands and legs. His body lying horizontally, suspended in the air, as that teacher beat him so hard, time and time again while Robert squealed and writhed in pain.

    4th grade — I don’t remember the teacher, not the teacher’s name, not even the gender. Again a more important memory blurs that year. At three days old, my sister’s twin brother died, and during the pledge of allegiance the boy in front of me remarked, “I’d die too if I had to live in your house” I slapped him hard across the face.

    5th grade – Mrs. Griswald: I wrote my first long report; it was on citrus fruit. Where I ever came up with that topic, I will never know, but I learned what a kumquat is.
    6th grade – Mr. Van Horn: “Kennedy’s been shot.” This is what my father heard one porter yell to another when he stepped off the train either to stretch his legs or to have a cigarette. Everyone smoked in the early 60’s even my father even though he was a physician. When the train left the station and Dad again seated next to Mom, he told her what he’d heard. Dismissing it as perhaps the porter saying it in reference to one of their mutual friends, we were soon to learn the truth when we reached our destination, San Francisco’s Union Square. A huge mass of people were gathered to mourn and give speeches. The entire planet mourned the horrible loss.

    7th and 8th grade – The “in” thing was wearing skirts with nylons (with garter belts, no panty hose in those days; in fact, no pants worn to school in those days) and bobby socks and white tennis shoes. One pair of my nylons had the Beatles heads on them. I was too cool for school!

    “Go out in the hall,” the teacher told the miscreant. When the teacher came out to “deal with the student,” he (it was always a male teacher doing this to a boy) would bring his paddle with the holes. “Grab your ankles” he’d say and then wail away on the kid.
    9th grade: Science — Mr. Polkinghorn (later the mayor of Elko), didn’t want Jan Chenoweth and me to talk to each other, so we drew circles on the wall behind us, named them Flora and Ella Wall. We’d turn around and talk to our characters, but really we’d be talking to each other. Mrs. Wilkerson: tall and skinny; she could cross her legs and wrap them around each other three times. Wuschious Wips, our home economics teacher, wore the reddest lipstick ever. We threw whatever we baked out the 2nd floor window down to friends below.

    “You Reads are all alike; no brain, no pain.” Mrs. Amestoy made me cry, but she held me captive. I wore a plaster cast from my toes to the top of my thigh, and I was the tallest girl in my class! Too heavy, my two brothers had rigged up a sling, so either one of them could walk my leg to class. I think Mrs. Amestoy knew I couldn’t walk out, but I wanted to more than I’d wanted anything up to that point in my life
    11th and 12th grade just went by without much fan fare, and the next teacher I remember as being a favorite was my cooperating teacher. Cathie Coe. She taught English at Franklin Junior High in Pocatello, Idaho. Patiently and kindly she put up with 21 year old me, me at the tail end of my college years doing my student teaching.

    Teaching positions were very hard to come by in January of 1975. At the conclusion of my student teaching, about a month after I graduated, I applied at Irving Junior High. Cathie told me that she’d read an article in Time Magazine that said students newly graduated from college who were looking for work, students whose parents could afford to help them out, took no for an answer and moved on to interview for the next job, but students who were desperate for a job, whose parents couldn’t afford to help them out, fought for the job, did not take no for an answer. “Do not take no for an answer.” She ordered.

    During the interview, the principal nonchalantly queried, “Tell me about Elko. How’s the hunting and fishing?” (I really did neither though my Dad, Peter, Bruce and John did) “Tell me about your family.” Then, “You are too young and inexperienced. Young teachers like you want students to be their friends.” “Okay,” I said and drove thinking all the way home about what Cathie Coe had said. As soon as I arrived, I phoned the principal and stated flatly, “If every interviewer tells me that I’m inexperienced, I’ll be old and grey before I have any experience at all and further, I have enough friends my own age (22) and don’t need junior high students to be my friends.” “I think you’d better come back and talk to me again.” He said. “I’ll be right there.”Quick as a bunny (a phrase of Cathie Coe’s), I drove right back, and to my great joy, he hired me then and there. In essence, it is Cathie Coe I thank for starting me on my path to becoming a teacher.

    My life is full of people, friends, who have helped me on my way. A huge regret is that I have not kept in touch with them. Where is Cathie Coe?

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