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The Tentacle


March 18, 2004

Odes to My Teachers

Bethany Stevenson

They say "Into every life, some rain must fall," but conversely if one has rain they eventually have some sun as well.

Into my life some rays of sunshine have illuminated my paths and those who have brought it should be honored. Unfortunately, those who have influenced our lives are hardly compensated adequately.

During my educational years, influential teachers helped me determine the adult I have become. Their dedication to the belief that education should be a successful and rewarding experience overpowered the drive for jobs with more rewarding pay.

They also canceled out all the teachers who did not put forth the effort to teach the love of learning and those who fit the adage, "Those who can’t, teach."

Dear Mr. Smith, my North Frederick Elementary phys ed teacher, is the first to strike my memory. He somehow sensed that a shy, awkward, non-athletic little girl who was new to the area needed a teacher to make her feel special. He gave me a nickname that I adored because it was from a book I loved to read. When I was the last child to run the backstops of the schoolyard for long distance running, he followed behind and encouraged to the end. He helped me to learn to enjoy volleyball and basketball, things I was afraid to try because of my awkwardness, but are sports that I now enjoy playing as an adult. And I felt special to him.

My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Ross, was a saintly woman who loved me despite my largely apparent faults. She found a way to get me to love to learn, to desire to get my assignments done so that I could try out the learning stations she had as extracurricular.

She was one of those teachers that I know now spent most of her pay on extra equipment and supplies for her classroom. Somehow, some way, she had the ability to use each student’s strengths to help them love school, and even the kid who sat by himself and ate his boggers, was drawn out of his world and loved by Mrs. Ross.

I cannot forget my high school chemistry teacher, Mrs. Vaughn. I don't think she ever taught from the book once. She taught instead by getting us involved in conversation and sneaking in the chemistry with real-life applications. We learned the periodic table of elements painlessly, for memorization to me was inane, but she snuck it in me - probably by osmosis.

Is it possible for a non-science person to love chemistry? Only if they were in Mrs. Vaughn's class.

Then there was the English teacher, Miss Campagnoli, who helped me realize I had potential as a writer. She gave us opportunities to write creatively instead of just for term papers and synopses of literature.

One year, I took a plate of homemade cookies to her for a Christmas gift. After they were eaten, she made the point to say, "Wow, not only can you write, but you can cook, too." A statement like that can boast the ego and performance of any student.

Obviously, it stuck with me all these years and her guidance and direction has helped me to continue in my poetry composition and the pursuit of a lifelong dream to write.

Where would we be without teachers who encourage, love, teach us to love educational pursuits, and help us to dream and achieve those dreams?

Unfortunately, we know all too well that having such influence over the rising generation does not pay as well as it ought to. As an Education major in college, it was almost a farce to us to see the postings for areas that were hiring and at what pay they were willing to take on new teachers.

But dedication to students and a desire to teach the love of learning is the driving factor for the good teachers, forcing them to accept low pay as a necessary evil for teaching students to value education.

As we watch the last month of the state's legislative season and prepare for the upcoming elections, not only locally but nationally as well, I hope we will all take into consideration the quiet group of people who influence the children. Is it worth it to us to compensate them for their work that reaches out for many years in an individual's life? Is it worth it to us to find those teachers who are dedicated and willing to go that extra mile?

To me, it is worth more than a public exercise gym or lawsuits over a Ten Commandments stone or lawsuits to allow gay marriages. These are trivial in the long range view compared to the influence of a good teacher.



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