Because teaching is one of the world’s most noble professions, to limit appreciation of teachers to just one week seems not enough. That having been said, given that we are in the midst of Teacher Appreciation Week, I am presented with the perfect opportunity to express my admiration for those teachers who have made much more than an impression on me – teachers who have actually helped me to realize who I might become in life, all by sharing their knowledge, their joy for learning, and their spirit. To wit:
My first-grade teacher. A warm and welcoming woman whose love for children came through with each lesson, my first-grade teacher is the person who opened up the world of reading for me, putting me on the path toward discovering the magic that books held. Much more than teaching us our a-b-c’s, she taught us how to put those letters into words and those words into sentences, and then read those sentences as they appeared on the pages of beautiful, beautiful books. Because of her, I still open every new book with bated breath, eagerly anticipating all that awaits me inside.
My high-school AP English teacher. Picture me in high school. Shy, not confident, unsure of myself. Enter a gregarious, intelligent, personable English teacher with the talent to see his students’ potential and tap into it in a supportive way. It was in his class that I realized that I could really write (thanks to his encouragement) and, more important, that I loved to write. Without his ongoing cheerleading, I would never have entered the national writing competition that I actually won; without his drawing me out of my shell, I would never have been brave enough to believe I might be a success at writing in college; and without his talent for bringing out the best in his students – through creating a positive, stimulating, and validating classroom experience – I might never have become a writer (including of this blog).
Three wise men – aka a trio of college professors. The thing about being at the top of your high-school class (even 45-plus years ago), is that, if you attend a college at that same academic level, everyone else there is equally top-of-their-class. And that can be very intimidating – trust me, I know. But the funny thing is that a great professor can help take that intimidation and turn it into a non-threatening intellectual challenge by teaching you how – not what – to think. If you’re lucky (I was), you can emerge with the kind of confidence, inspiration, and “aha” moments that influence the rest of your life. The three wise men in question, who taught Chaucer, Russian Lit, and 20th Century American Poetry – a lot of reading, I know! – all managed to instill in me the belief that I could get through it, I could understand it, and I could excel at it. Bravo, gentlemen (and brava, me).
Finally, one more teacher. My lawyer-turned-college-professor husband who loves helping his students understand the fine points of Business Law and who takes incredible joy in helping his students succeed and get from point A to point B in their lives. Who applauds their efforts and beams with pride at their accomplishments. Who keeps in touch with them for years after they have left his class because he cares so much. He has taught me, too, by example – lessons about compassion and fairness, kindness and integrity.
The best teachers don’t do it for the money (good thing). They do it because it is a calling. They all deserve our thanks and the proverbial shiny red apple – and a better excuse than, “the dog ate my homework.”
©2022 Claudia Grossman