By Lorry Myers
My kindergartener grandson loves his teacher and doesn’t understand why she can’t be promoted to first grade with him. “You mean I have a new teacher every year?” Ivan asked me, throwing his hands in the air in a gesture that reminded me of his mother. Then, almost as if he needed to prove his point, Ivan asked me.
“Do you remember all your teachers?”
“Of course I do,” I told Ivan. But mostly, I remember the remarkable ones, the ones who changed who I would become. My list of remarkable teachers is just that.
- First, there was my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Debolt, who slipped me a nickel for ice cream because she knew I would never bring my own. Mrs. DeBolt saw me.
- Piper, my fourth-grade teacher. Mrs. Piper read out loud to us every day, no matter what. Her voice was rich and deep, and full of untold stories. Mrs. Piper made me fall head over heels in love with books simply because she loved books, too.
- Hamilton, my fifth-grade teacher. After a writing assignment, Mrs. Hamilton called me out into the hall and told me that what I wrote was not like any other’s. Until then, I was a middle child; an average student who believed I was average. Mrs. Hamilton changed the way I saw myself.
- Thigpen, Home Economics. Mrs. Thigpen knew everything and carried a nervous energy about her that made me feel there was something else to learn, something else we needed to talk about.
- Olson, Music. Mrs. Olson chose songs from play books and song books, hymnals and history. I remember her leaving the piano to march in front of the class with the American flag singing, “It’s a grand old flag!” Even though I can’t sing, Mrs. Olson made me a singer.
- Norma McBride, my PE teacher. She challenged me to step up, grow up, and not be so full of myself. I listened to her because she listened to me.
- Coach Enlow, my basketball coach. This man made me want to be better at everything simply because I wanted to make him proud. He taught me so many things that impacted my life in so many ways. I will always say his name.
- Gordanier, my English teacher. I am pretty sure she didn’t like me much because I was a punk teenager, arrogant and annoying, and Mrs. Gordanier took the time to call me on it. When she did, I knew she was right and I just fell apart. Mrs. Gordanier helped put me back together again. I was different after that.
Looking back on my list of rock star teachers, I noticed that my lasting impressions are not about unsolved math problems or misspelled research papers. These eight teachers, were not just teachers to me. They were educated and dedicated; true believers in what they were tasked to do. They did not stick to one lesson plan, but applied a different lesson plan to each individual student. Magical human beings who were gifted with the ability to look into the heart of a child and see who they could be.
Who I could be.
I think about the education of my young grandchildren and I have to say, I am more than slightly concerned. In a state that has one of the lowest teachers’ pay in the nation, what does that say about Missourians, and what we hold dear? Our teachers’ salaries do not reflect the daunting, and now dangerous responsibilities of teaching and protecting our children. So, why isn’t enticing and keeping the best teachers to educate our future not one of the top priorities in our state?
What would happen if teachers, like entertainment writers and airline pilots, walked out on their students to showcase the pay struggles of teachers and their future earnings shortfall. Think anyone would notice?
Think anything would change?