Sunday, May 5, 2013

To be appreciated...

A good friend, teacher, and fellow blogger has issued his 2nd Annual Teacher Appreciation Challenge, which I decided to take. I encourage you to take it as well. Whether it's a current or former colleague or teacher let someone know how much you appreciate what they do. (Click on the link above and it will give you all the information you need to participate.)

There are several names I could put in this post. Each is deserving of gratitude and if I had the time and the space I most definitely would. However, time and space are both finite and no one wants to read a novel, so I narrowed my choice down to one. This year I decided to highlight a good friend and outstanding educator -  Mr. Z.

I was fortunate to meet this amazing person through another awesomely talented educator, Mr. H. (Who - it could be argued - deserves a post of his own, as well.) As I came to know Mr. Z. I discovered in so many ways how deep his commitment to his students was. He couldn't stand the thought of any one of them not reaching their potential and he did everything in his power to make sure they had opportunities to make that happen.  From home visits before school started and letters to their future selves, to Super Activities and year end celebrations Mr. Z. poured his whole heart and soul into his teaching. During summers, he even taught students who others might have given up on through his work with children in Juvenile Detention. He could not think of any child as worth less than the best he had to offer. He went beyond teaching the basics and brought the wonder of music, sign language, drama, and so much more to every class he taught. His care and compassion didn't stop with his students, but encompassed the teachers, staff, and parents that he worked with as well. He did little things to let people know how much he appreciated all they did to help students.

I will never forget the influence that Mr. Z. had in my life either as a friend or educator. His passion for teaching rejuvenated my own and has made me want to strive to be better in my own sphere of influence.

So... Thank you, Mr. Z.... 

Thanks for encouraging so many of us to reach higher, teach better, and change the world...
One starfish at a time.

Photo by Backroads Photography

Saturday, May 4, 2013


Last year, a fellow teacher and friend issued a challenge for the week of Teacher Appreciation to recognize and acknowledge in some way teachers who made a difference in your life. I decided I would take that challenge. I thought this would be a good time to revisit what I wrote at the time. It certainly still rings true.

The dictionary defines appreciation as: gratitude; thankful recognition. 

So, to all of you who have been a powerful force for good in my life, here is a small token of that gratitude.

My first and most influential teachers were my parents. I couldn't write a post about teachers without acknowledging the great influence they had and still have in my life. I am who I am because of the start they gave me.

Mrs. B. was my Kindergarten teacher. Legally blind, she taught me that one can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to gain a dream. She also took the time to reach each child on an individual level. For me it was introducing me to "Clifford the Big Red Dog" when she found out that I was frightened of dogs as a child. It was one of many things that help her stand out in my mind.

Mrs. W. helped instill a love for music and art when I was in 4th grade. In one of those odd twists of time and fate, I now have the opportunity of teaching with her. She has been and continues to be an influence for good in my life and a great example of persevering through trials and difficulties.

Mrs. S. introduced me to the beauty of American Sign Language during my 5th grade year. She also challenged and pushed each of us to try our hardest and do our best.

During my junior high years there were a couple of teachers who stand out in my memory. Mr. E. was passionate about history and made each class an adventure in learning. A second Mrs. W. encouraged my humble efforts at writing and challenged me to do more.

In high school there were also a few extraordinary teachers. A third Mrs. W. introduced me to the classics of literature. She also made it a point not to accept excuses for shoddy work. My writing and studying became better because of her. Mr. P. brought passion and conviction to his teaching of history. The mysteries of the past came alive under his skillful teaching. Mr. D. cultivated discussions and encouraged diverse thoughts. Mr. N. taught French, but more than that - he taught compassion and kindness. A second Mr. P. brought a love of the earth and it's fascinating formation to the surface. Field trips into the geologic wonder that is is our own "backyard" still linger in my memories now.

These are just a few of the wonderful teachers had the privilege of knowing during my years as a student.

Now I am a teacher. I am the one charged with educating young minds. It's a daunting job. The people I work with daily are an inspiration. They truly are dedicated and give their all. Thank you - Mrs. Q, Mrs. H., Mrs. W., Mrs. N., Mrs. S., Mr. P., Mr. H., Mr. J., and Ms. T. You all make me want to be a better teacher and principal. Your efforts on behalf of our students do not go unnoticed. Thanks for all the untold hours of preparation, worry, care, and sacrifice - both personal and financial you give.
I also have over the past several years had the privilege of meeting many other teachers whom I admire and learn from constantly through workshops, classes, and presentations. To them I say thank you.

Mrs. H. makes learning fun and relevant to her little ones. She constantly strives to improve both her learning and theirs.

Mr. H. shows innovation in his teaching and is constantly creating new ways to present vital knowledge to his students. I am lucky to have him as a colleague and friend.
A newer addition to that illustrious crew of awesome educators was Mr. Z. who deservedly received the Golden Apple Teacher of the Year award last year at his school. I was privileged to know this 5th grade teacher and was amazed at all the things he did for his students. My own teaching was rejuvenated as I visited with and learned from him.

And to the students who I have had the privilege of teaching over the past sixteen years - thank you. You, too, have been influential teachers. From you I have learned patience, perseverance, and from some of you courage, and compassion. I hope that in return you have learned from me. If you leave with an education not only of the mind, but of the heart - of kindness and respect for yourselves and others, I will consider myself as having some success.

Now I encourage YOU take the challenge to show appreciation to your important teachers, whoever they are and wherever they may be.

*Please feel free to leave a comment telling about some of the important teachers in your life, or a link to a blog post, etc. if that is where you shared your stories.