I would have to say that I've had two favorite teachers, for different reasons but both equally valued to me for their contributions. I encountered these individuals in two consecutive years in fact, during my fourth and fifth grade terms respectively.
First, there was Ms. Boyd. From the moment I walked into her room during the school's Open House, I knew she was going to be exciting and informative. "Hi," she said to me, giving me a huge hug as I could feel the smile on her face without even seeing it.
It seemed that there was never a dull day in her class. We were always learning to make or create something: from the plaster masks that we made of our faces for Halloween (I think she secretly did this to steal a little quiet time as we couldn't talk until they had dried) to the Native American feast we cooked for the Thanksgiving Holiday. I can't exactly remember how we'd done it, but I do recall it involving sticks, pumpkin seeds and other things. I think we made a lot of things using pumpkins, in fact.
She turned my life around in many ways, I went from my first two F's in the year previous to my first two A's under her. I've seen her only a couple of years ago, and amazingly she still seems as young and bubbly as she did then. Can I admit that I found her attractive as well?
The teacher I had the next year was anything but nice. Her name was Ms. Elam, and as soon as I was told that I would be in her class, my guts tied up into knots. She had just that kind of reputation.
Getting down to my level in the chair, she would ask "Have you done your homework?" Invariably, my answer was no, I hated having to sit there and complete what I deemed busy work while all of the other kids got to play outside. She started calling my mom though, and reporting that I wasn't being honest on what I had to do. I think I spent that whole year grounded thanks to her.
What she gave me, I wasn't yet able to understand. As it turned out, she had taught my Aunt many years before, and saw that my Aunt had graduated from the local university, gone on to get her MBA, and become a powerful executive at what is now Bank Of America. She pulled me aside one day and gave me a lollipop to suck on while she talked to me.
"I know none of what I say now will have any meaning to you yet, but I'm going to talk anyway. You really need to stop all of this foolishness and settle down; I have taught many children over the years, and I can tell that you have way more potential than this. One day, you're going to walk across that stage just like your Aunt did, and you'll make me just as proud to have taught you as I was with her. But you have to believe it first."
Now, whenever I think of those words they still have a profound impact on me. I credit her with my having enough perseverance to not only complete my university degree, but to graduate Cum Laude as well.
I was initially so inspired by her that I wanted to be a teacher, and I had even gone as far as to apply for a Teaching Fellows Scholarship where I was placed on the Alternates list. I am fortunate that I had not received it though, for it didn't take me much time to decide that I simply don't have the temperament to deal with children. For any educators who do read this, I admire you for your ability to mold young minds and influence the life paths of so many people. I only wish that society would hold you to such high regard as well: your job is not easy but I would argue that is the most important for all of us to function. So keep doing what you do with your head held high, and know that your students never forget what you do for them, even if they didn't show it at the time.