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Tomorrow is my 23rd first day of school. Unlike the past five years, I will not be in front of the classroom; instead, I will be behind the scenes as a building administrator at a university. Even though the setting has changed, the feelings remain the same. The night before the first day of school is the most anxiety ridden night of the year; childhood Christmas Day jitters don’t compare. As I prepare for this year’s challenges, I want to take a moment to reflect, show gratitude, and thank the teachers that have molded me throughout the years.
To Mrs. A, my first grade teacher, thank you for showing me that a book is always better when you have someone to share it with. Even if that someone is a stuffed bear.
To Mrs. F, my seventh grade English teacher, thank you for challenging me to be intentional with my writing. When I teach writing, I emphasize why we use writing tools, not just how to.
To Ms. T, my ninth grade English teacher, thank you for showing me how to annotate and read closely. Even when I read for enjoyment, I have a pen in my hand.
To Mr. O, my high school social studies teacher, thank you for showing me that laughter in the classroom makes all the difference- even if it’s directed at me.
To Doc E, my high school social studies teacher, thank you for proving that tradition still has a place in the 21st Century classroom.
To Mr. M, my high school physics teacher, thank you for reminding me that every student has potential. Your class was the most difficult of my high school career- without those extra tutoring sessions, I never would have passed the AP exam. Even though I avoid physics like the plague, eleven years later, I am still able to assist students with physic problems and recall concepts. It was a very humbling experience. Whenever I work with a challenging student, I remember your support and where it led me.
To Ms. F, my high school AP Literature teacher, thank you for modeling effective collaboration. That class prepared me for college discussions. Also, thank you for modeling lifelong learning. One day a classmate said something, and you responded, “I have never thought of it that way…let me think about that.” You were our comrade on our educational journey, not our tour guide.
To Ms. F, my high school AP Literature teacher, thank you for modeling effective collaboration. Click To TweetTo Mr. P, my American Literature teacher, thank you for turning my world upside down and helping me to discover my passion. Without you, I would not be celebrating my 23rd first day. You provided opportunities for us to lead the class; while teaching O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard To Find,” I realized (or accepted) that my future was in a classroom. You also taught me about discipline. One day you gave a reading-check quiz, and almost all of us failed. In a calm voice, you spoke of your disappointment and explained why we had to “waste” a day so we could read the story. I have never felt so much academic shame. Every year, I strive to earn that respect from my students.
Finally, I would be amiss if I didn’t mention the Great Mr. Feeny. He embodies all teachers who fight for their students in and out of the classroom. He challenges us to teach our students life lessons beyond the curriculum. Although fictional, I see my teachers in him.
When I left my school district in May, one of my students approached me and said, “I want to become a teacher because of you.” During my darkest teaching moments, those are the words that lift my soul. Despite holidays and appreciation weeks, teaching can be a thankless job. As you start this year, I encourage you to praise and thank your colleagues, administrators, and former educators. As your students and their parents thank you, record their words and keep them some place where you can pull them out when you need a reminder. All of my student notes are in a scrapbook that I peruse whenever I have a bad day. Just as we positively affirm our students’ behaviors, we need to thank each other. Daily, teachers have the power to change lives. We may never know the true effects we have on our students, so write what you do know on your heart and keep it forever.