Great teachers are amongst our most precious assets.
The best ones can make a difference that lasts a lifetime.
If we're lucky, we've had a couple of the great ones.
Waiting behind a school bus, I watched the kids stomp through puddles in their rain-boots. Then it dawned on me what had them so jazzed. It's getting on in June and summer break's on the way. The kids were getting ready, getting antsy, and gathering up their small tokens of appreciation.
Remembering the feelings of grade school, Field Day and the sweet anticipation of summer vacation, I thought about a few of my very best teachers. What made those favorite ones so special? For me, it came down to a few key qualities.
Mrs. Preston was my first grade teacher, and I adored her for her kindness.
One day, a couple of girls in my first grade class decided that I had the funniest looking shoes they'd ever seen. Hysterically funny, in fact. And to prove their point, they gathered the other kids around me, to point it out. Apparently, they were right. My shoes were very, very funny.
I'll never forget how my cheeks burned, and Mrs. Preston took me out to the hallway, and calmed me down with her soft voice. Then she gave me one of her chalk board erasers. She knew I wanted one because I told her all about my chalkboard at home. That eraser meant the world to me, and Mrs. Preston made me feel special. I'll never forget her for it.
Poor, poor Mr. Bruno. My eighth grade math teacher was a saint. The introduction of Algebra saw all things math go downhill for me, but Mr. Bruno tried his very best. He came in early to work with me before class, and stayed after school several days per week. Although I never did fully understand how X could equal Y, I did eventually pass. But Mr. Bruno never lost his patience with me, which made math class slightly less embarrassing.
3. Recognition of Aptitude.
It's a good thing to know what you're good at, as well as what you're not so good at. And it can spark encouragement when someone else points it out to you. In the fifth grade, Mr. Keller pulled me out of class to ask if I'd like to join Art Club, and it changed the way I thought of myself, forever.
Nobody likes a Prickly Pear, and it's pretty difficult to learn anything under those conditions. In the third and fourth grade, I endured a pair of them, back to back.
One screamed so often and so loud that her face would turn crimson and the veins in her neck bulged. She was terrifying.
The other was so cold, I was afraid to look her straight in the eye for fear of turning to stone (or something). She made fun of my soft voice, but my tongue always felt too big for my mouth when I was forced to respond to her. Thankfully, my mother removed me from those classrooms when I started to complain of chronic stomach aches. Warm and approachable works so much better.
The Secret Sauce. Passion makes everything fun, a powerful magnet that draws people in and makes you impossible to ignore. All of my favorite teachers had no shortage of this essential ingredient.
I remember the day things clicked, and I began reading (somewhat fluently) in kindergarten. I had no name for it at the time, but I blossomed under Mrs. Burton's sunshine-y enthusiasm, as she watched us succeed.
And today, when people tell me how much fun my soapmaking classes are, I know it's because of The Secret Sauce.
We remember our best teachers, not only for what they teach us, but for holding up a mirror to reflect back, everything they see within us. Those things within us, that we can't see for ourselves.