Friday, May 2, 2014

May 6 is National Teacher Day: Did you thank a teacher?: Josette Plank

Thank you, Sister Ann Martin, for expecting small town kids to know where Mongolia is on a big world map.

Thank you, Sister Charlotte, for encouraging a shy fourth-grade girl to recite poetry. Thank you, Sister Michaeline, for bringing your guitar to class.

May 6 is National Teacher Day, and it's a perfect time to thank a teacher for all his or her hard work. (You social media savvy kids can hashtag-celebrate at #ThankATeacher.)

OK, maybe Sister Michaeline strumming the ABCs to first graders wasn’t hard work. The day I threw up in her waste paper basket? Now that was a hard work day.

The day Mr. McCormick suggested I remove myself from 11th grade English class for being a sassy mouth? That was a hard work day.

Poor Sister Thomas Joseph, my high school Physics teacher--when it comes to higher math and science, my skull is especially thick. And yet Sister held a devout faith that my head could be filled with something other than Beatles’ lyrics. To this day, I can still remember the difference between centrifugal and centripetal force. Thank you, Sister Thomas Joseph.

To celebrate National Teacher Day, I decided to talk to my friends who are now teachers.

Who was the teacher that made a difference in your life? Who was the teacher that inspired you to become an educator?

“My favorite teacher was Mrs. Borz,” says Carol, a 6th grade social studies teacher.

“Mrs. Borz taught 4th grade. She was a big, grandmotherly woman. She loved her kids, and we knew it. School was fun.”

Carol remembers a classroom bulletin board shaped like a ship. On the ship, Mrs. Borz placed a paper cutout of each student. If a child did well on a spelling test, her cutout would be moved from “sailor” to “Captain” or “Admiral.”

“Mrs. Borz crafted lessons and designed a curriculum that would appeal to her students,” Carol says.

“She created a classroom environment where students wanted to be each day. I try so hard to recreate that same sort of atmosphere in my own classroom. I want to have my students want to learn.”

Bob, a former high school classmate, is an English specialist for grades 6 through 12. Bob shared a blog post he wrote about one of his favorite teachers, Mr. McCormick. (Yes, the same Mr. McCormick who helped initiate my much needed attitude adjustment.)

“I don’t even remember anything about my sophomore English teacher,” Bob writes

“Academic life for me changed on the first day of my junior year, first period. There he was, Mr. McCormick, standing at the door of room 103.”

Mr. McCormick’s wild hair and “hint of hippie” made a definite impression on us students. In our backwoods Catholic high school, Mr. McCormick was a different kind of mystic.

“Fifteen minutes in, and I was addicted,” Bob remembers.

“I don’t think I’d ever had a teacher that was talking to me, rather than at me. It was weird. I mean, it was really weird. It was mesmerizing.”

Jenifer is a Pre K-5th grade music teacher in Hawaii. She says her middle and high school band director, Larry McIntosh, is the teacher she wants to thank.

“Mr. McIntosh started us out, inspired us, and then shaped us into great musicians, all on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific. He had a fiery temper that we were all afraid of at times. But Mr. McIntosh’s love of music and passion for teaching inspired many of his students to be lifelong musicians.”

“Without his influence,” Jenifer says, “I would most certainly not be a music teacher today.”

I know that Jenifer is one heck of a music teacher. Thank you, Mr. McIntosh.

The National Education Association website has a list of “quotable quotes” about teachers.

Horace Mann said, “Teachers teach because they care. Teaching young people is what they do best. It requires long hours, patience, and care." Sounds like Mann was talking about Mrs. Borz and her paper cutout sailing ship.

Helen Caldicott said," Teachers, I believe, are the most responsible and important members of society because their professional efforts affect the fate of the earth." That one is for Sister Ann Martin and her hundreds of students who can now find Mongolia on a map.

And for Mr. McCormick, a quote from John Steinbeck:

“Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.”Happy National Teacher Day. And thank you, teachers. Thank you for helping us become who we are today.

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