Monday, May 11, 2009

If You Can Read This, Thank a Teacher

Okay, so I'm a little late but National Teacher Appreciation Week was last week. It slipped by at my school, largely unnoticed but for a note written on the whiteboard in the staff room. Since it was also a full moon last week, the one emotion I was definitely *not feeling* was appreciation!

I was one of those geeks who loved school. LOVED it. And those annual tests (in our state, the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills), well, I loved them, too. Maybe that's why I'm so intrigued by all the research I do for my books. And there were many many teachers along the way that if I had the chance today, I'd send them a note of appreciation for instilling that love of learning.

First there was Sister Davida in first grade who taught me to read. I must have been four when I started pestering my parents. "When am *I* going to be able to read?" From the first time I could open that first grade reader and those funny spots became words, I was hooked.

And then there was Sister Loretta in sixth grade, who was also the librarian. I realize now that one book lover had recognized another and that's why she had me working in the school library and always let me check out the new books first.

Mony Vega, my high school Spanish teacher, remains a favorite. Mostly because of the rapport he had with the kids, but he must have taught me something, too because when I'm in Mexico, after a number of margaritas, I become quite fluent in the language :)

There were others. Mrs. Petersen in high school social studies--I've always loved history. Bubbles Watson in English (I'm sure she had a first name but high school students are jerks, remember?) She introduced us to George Carlin in semantics class by playing that bit of his on the seven dirty words. And Father Geary, in psychology, who whetted my appetite for delving into the motivation of my characters. (He was also my introduction to the phrase, 'Father What-a-Waste' :)

To these and all the other teachers who shaped my education, I offer a thank you.

But, wait. Appreciation week wouldn't be complete without also tendering a few apologies. To Sister Marcellita in eighth grade, for whatever it was that used to make her embark on hour long tirades about the sins of the flesh and Jezebels. It appeared to us that we were merely hanging up our coats in the coat room, but apparently 'sins of the flesh' prosper in those shadowy confines, especially if a boy and a girl have to hang up their coat at the same time. To Sister I offer a line of hallway lockers for every boy and girl in her class.

For Father Hilsman in ninth grade religion, who walked out on our class because in our boredom we collected jewelry from everyone in the back of the room and held a silent auction during his lecture. To Father I offer my black pearl ring with my humblest apologies.

It was Father Salz in tenth grade Geometry. Shy and stammering, it was almost cruel to subject him to a bunch of high schoolers whose favorite trick was to open the windows and pull the blinds. And then one by one go out the window when he turned his back to the chalkboard. Child proof window locks are my gift of apology to Father.

And to Father McLean, who threatened to cancel senior week because we put Saran-Wrap on the toilets, whipped cream in the blow dryers and had a water fight in the hall outside the cafeteria I offer only a piece of advice: don't threaten something unless you can really follow through on it.

What about you? Who are the teachers who shaped you, for good or bad, during your school years? Who would you most like to thank now? Or maybe there's someone you'd rather have arrested :) Any teacher you'd like to offer an apology to? Now's your chance!


Margay said...

I would like to thank my junior high English teacher, Miss Black, for recognizing and encouraging my love for writing. I remember her signing a notebook once with the words, "Have a great summer! Keep on writing!" I just wanted her to know that I did.


Kylie said...

Margay, it's wonderful when a teacher recognizes and encourages a student's strengths. It's easy to forget what a long term affect that can have on a student!

Michele Hauf said...

I would like to thank my music teachers Mr. Ricci and Mr.Solstein for instilling in me a deep appreciation for music.

And one of my favorite teachers, Mr. Krystosic will never know he was my favorite. I used to think I hated him. He was an eccentric ole grouch. He'd stalk the aisles between desks, hands behind his back, his suspenders holding his high-water pants up to reveal his cowboy boots. His favorite phrase was 'do you get the gist?'. No, we usually didn't. But something about him kept me coming back for more. I took two or three classes from him, just to get the gist. Now, I look back and realize I kept going back because he fascinated as much as what he taught.

Cindy Gerard said...

I had so many teachers who I loved and helped shape me. It says a lot when you can remember the names of EACH of your elementary and high school teachers. God Bless my English teacher, Mrs. Gough, who somehow managed to make me love diagramming sentences. And may she forgive me now when I take liberties with sentence structure in my books.

And to your teachers, Kylie - I would like to offer my most heartfelt apologies and the hope that all of their students weren't as ornery as you!

Kylie said...

LOL, Michele, Mr. Krystosic sounds like a character! I had a son who used to complain long and bitterly about his math teacher because when my son wanted to start his homework, Mr. Lloyd would just *keep explaining things*! I tried to explain that further explanation was the mark of a good teacher but he didn't appreciate that until he was an adult!

Margay said...

Kylie, as a result of that experience, I have (probably) gone overboard in instilling that love of books and the written word in my daughters. I just want them to feel the same type of magic within the pages of a book (whether they are writing it or reading it) that I felt in Miss Black's class. If everyone had an English teacher like her, we wouldn't ever have to discuss problems of illiteracy in this country.

Kylie said...

Cindy, I'll have you know I was shy and quiet--until ninth grade, LOL! I never minded diagramming sentences either, although I rely on the copy editor to round up my dangling modifiers and participles. And thanks to my teachers, these days when I have sentence fragments in my writing, it's because I meant to put them there!

Kylie said...

Margay, you must have done a good job with your children. My biggest disappointment is that none of my children (even the ones who read a lot when they were younger) do much reading for pleasure as adults. I still have hope, though, that that can change...

Margay said...

Never give up hope! My daughters went through a period where they didn't want to read at all and now they read every chance they get and both write (one does fan fiction, the other is exploring fiction). Granted, they are still in their teens, but I hope this love will continue for a life time!

Playground Monitor said...

I was a good girl in school. No trouble-making for me. And I had a slew of great teachers (with the exception of my Algebra 1 teacher) who molded me into a well-rounded person. I only had 2 English teachers in high school. This was before AP classes so we just had "regular" classes and 2 sections of "advanced" English. The same teacher taught us our first three years (Patty Lahr, wherever you are, thank you even though I still hate Herman Melville to this day) and then we had Mrs. Black our senior year (thank you, Fran, for sticking up for me and questioning why the 9th ranked student in the class wasn't inducted into the National Honor Society).

Neither of my boys were readers, and one still isn't though he's a whiz with computer aided design. The other got interested in reading when Lord of the Rings hit movie theaters. He's read the Tolkein books many times since. He's also a big Dan Brown fan, has read every book, is anticipating the new release in September and plays cryptography games online at some site that pays homage to Brown's character Robert Langdon. #2 son also has a 4.0 GPA after 3 semesters of grad school and called last night to tell us he's been invited to join an honors fraternity. Sweet!

I started college as an education major but learned quickly I wasn't cut out to be a teacher and school children deserved better than me. I've always supported my kids' teahers 100% cause it's a tough job. My hat's off to teachers everywhere!


Debra Dixon said...

My teachers loved me. Never caused trouble. Got great grades and my parents were present and available for everything. Mother was "room mother" for K-4. Then she had to give someone else a chance. (g)

I've always been appreciative of teachers. My art teacher in junior high made an impression in how she treated her students. She wasn't a buddy but she also wasn't some authority figure. She managed to walk the line between respect of the individual and control of the class. She made us aware that we were all people and that people are known by their actions.

Yes, my parents were a broken record on that subject but this art teacher really helped us see how holding ourselves accountable made the world a more enjoyable place.

Kylie said...

Deb, that's quite a balancing act your art teacher managed. Good for her! I know we spent a lot of time with our two oldest ones preaching about reputation and how choices affected the way others perceived them. You always hope those lessons won't be in vain!

lois greiman said...

Nice post, Kylie. And I appreciate the irony of Father's picture above my gaytwogether cowboy.

My first grade teacher was the best...saw me through some hard times.

I don't know how you teachers do it. I'm afraid I might be an advocate of leaving some kids far far behind.

Kylie said...

LOL, Lois, have you been eavesdropping on conversations in the teacher's lounge again???

Christie Ridgway said...

Oh, thanks, Kylie. I love the chance to think of my past teachers.

Favorites: Mrs. Robertson in 2nd grade. As beautiful as a model and she held handwriting contests which I often won.

Mr. OC Guinn, high English and Journalism. Was the first to see me as a writer, not just a good student. I'd love him to know what I'm doing now. My two other high school English teachers, Mrs. Shore and Miss O'Hagan.

Finally, thanks to Mr. Byrd, 6th grade, who put me and three of my friends in separate corners of the room with our backs to the classroom. His desk was in the corner, so I sat behind him and he cracked me up with jokes but mostly left me alone to read the stack of books propped against the cinderblock walls. I know you loved me, Mr. Byrd!

Other good ones too, but these were the stand-outs.

Kylie said...

Christie your sixth grade experience was like my seventh grade one. For some reason Mr. Fritz felt the need to separate my friends and me, too.

At least he didn't break a yardstick across my back or slam a window on me like he did a friend of mine!

Suzanne Brandyn said...

Hi Kylie,
A little late. heehehe
I loved highschool more than uni. But my parents were gypsys, always moving around. I went to so many different schools I remember one teacher who told me I could be anthing I wanted to be. I believed in her and when I went to apply to be an air-hostess I couldn't get in, being half an inch too short.
Gee, it has surely changed now.
But I loved my English teacher, Mrs. Robertson. She helped me so much. :) Although I only had her for a semister before we moved on again.

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