Nicole tagged me for the teacher meme. I have to name five teachers and say what made them great.
Mrs. Montgomery, my aunt
Aunt Carol taught kindergarten, first grade, and second grade, though not all at the same time, during nearly 30 years of teaching. She has been honored more than once with a “Teacher of the Year” award. Though I never sat in her classroom, she was the first teacher in my life. From the time I was born, she gave me books and helped teach me to read. Not only teach me to read, but pass on a love for reading. I think y’all know how much I like to read.
Mrs. Milling, second grade
I remember that Mrs. Milling pushed me to work harder. Not only did she refuse to allow me to be a lazy student, she said encouraging things to me like, “I know you can do better,” and, “You’re smarter than you think you are.” Math was the only subject with which I really struggled. I guess she figured that if I could do well in Science and Grammar and Spelling and Reading, well, then I could do better in Mathematics. Her method was to give me extra work on top of the normal homework assignments. When I had difficulty with subtracting big numbers, she sent home extra worksheets for me to do. It took me forever to understand the concept of borrowing ten to subtract. Rather than pat me on the head and say, “Aw, you poor thing. Don’t worry about it,” she sent home extra worksheets that I had to do. That year, I remember that I won the class award for Most Improved Student. Then, on the last day of school she gave me a folder full of worksheets for me to work on during the summer. I did them, too. Because in addition to being a demanding teacher, she was a little scary to me when I was in her class.
Mr. Lamon, sixth grade
By sixth grade, my parents had gone through an ugly divorce. In February, we moved and I started a new school. My first day of school was the day before Valentine’s Day. And can I just say that the day before Valentine’s Day is not a good day to start a new school. I didn’t get any Valentines because no one knew me. But I ate my weight in candy hearts, so it was all good.
My new teacher was Mr. Lamon. What made Mr. Lamon so incredibly special (and I’m starting to tear up) is that he gave me a completely fresh start as a student. Needless to say, I had a terrible time in school because of the turmoil going on at home. Divorce was taboo back in the eighties. I didn’t know another soul whose parents were divorcing, and I felt very weird about it. So, I was a bit of a problem at school sometimes. My sixth grade teacher at the previous school sent along a thick folder, also known as “Leslie’s Permanent Record” for Mr. Lamon to peruse. It was a very nice “Howdy-do.” So nice that Mr. Lamon called me to his desk one day to talk about it.
He very gently asked me a few questions about what my life was like, what the other school was like, and how I felt about my previous teacher. Then, he put his hand on my “permanent record.” He explained what it was and that the student he had seen in his class the last few weeks didn’t seem at all like the student described in the folder. He looked me right in the eyes and said that he would forget everything he read in my record and give me a brand new start. All he wanted was my absolute best.
By May, I had achieved awards for highest grade point average in my class (for the final six weeks), I had been chosen as a Good Citizen, and Mr. Lamon had even recommended and arranged for me to be a teacher’s assistant for one of the kindergarten classes.
And now I’m crying like a baby. Mr. Lamon made a huge impact on my life.
Dr. Curtner-Smith, Parent-Child Relationships professor and my advisor
Dr. Curtner-Smith helped me navigate through all my classes. She helped me plan my schedule every semester. She made sure I graduated. She helped me apply for scholarships. She recommended me when a couple of her colleagues were looking for an undergrad to help them analyze their research data (it was really cool stuff about mother-infant interaction and how it changes between birth and 12 months — I learned a lot from that experience). And she taught me tons about babies and children. Not only did I learn all the theories, I learned a lot of practical stuff in her classes, too, like how to get a baby to sleep on its own, how to implement time-out, the differences between authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, and indulgent parenting, that the climate of the home is more important than the weather, implicit rules are sometimes more important than the explicit ones, setting limits help children feel safe and secure, and creating a schedule helps children know what to expect.
She came to my wedding!
I saw Dr. Curtner-Smith a couple of weeks ago. She had her first child when I was a junior and her second sometime after I graduated. Now, our kids are taking swimming lessons together this summer. We talked about being selective when it comes to our kids’ peer groups, her ongoing research into childhood bullying, extreme childhood sports and alternatives, and childhood illnesses and prevention. You know, the usual.
Dr. Stinett (pronounced stin-ay’), Marriage and Family Studies professor
It was so cool to me that my professor wrote the textbook we were using. One thing I really appreciated about the work Mr. Stinett did was that he didn’t downplay the effect of faith in a family. He included the impact of faith, church attendance, and prayer when he considered the health of a family. He also invited married couples to come to class to answer our questions about marriage and family. You had to be a brave soul to stand before a college class and answer any questions. I learned a lot. I think part of the reason I am so interested in family dynamics is because I came out of family dysfunction. I also looked at a lot of my studies as therapy; I wanted to understand my parents and find some answers for myself.
The last day of class, before dead week and finals week, Dr. Stinett read a book to us, Love You Forever. It was the first time I had ever heard this little story. It took every ounce of self-control I had to stay in my desk. I was an absolute mess by the end. When I finally made it back to my dorm, I flat-out bawled over it. To this day, I cannot read that book without fighting tears. And I’ve had a lot of practice since I have four children who have loved hearing that book over and over again.
Those are my five. I realize now that I didn’t mention any of my high school teachers. I’m not sure why that is. High school was different.
I’m not going to tag specific people. If you’d like to do the teacher meme, then feel free to participate. Please let me know if you do so I can read it.