Most of you know from previous posts that I recently got reconnected with a very special student from my first year of teaching. He, his mom, and little brother all came up to the hospital for a little reunion. And oh my, what a reunion it was. There were tears from just about everyone in the room. (Okay, mainly from me, but I don’t care. #noshame)
I was so anxious and nervous all day leading up to his visit. I’m not sure why…but I just knew it was going to be special. He walked in…and I just couldn’t contain myself. That boy had grown. A LOT. But his hugs were still just as wonderful. I hugged him and didn’t let go for a while. And then I made him take some pictures. Poor boy.
Hugging that boy for the first time in almost 8 years will forever be one of the most special moments in my life. I am beyond grateful to be reconnected with he and his family. It seems that I wasn’t the only one who was missing someone…apparently they were missing me too. God and stupid cancer brought us back together…and I will be forever grateful for that.
Because that reconnection was so special to me, I want to say this…if any of you out there have a teacher that was special to you, or vice versa…if any of you are teachers and had a family/student that impacted your life in a profound way…find them. Put the effort into finding them. You may not have any success, but TRY. You will be so glad you did. And if you do reconnect, tell them what they did for you. There aren’t many things greater than that feeling.
With that being said, I have been trying for years to find my 2nd and 4th grade teachers. They were incredible…and are essentially responsible for me becoming a teacher. They cared for me and made me feel loved. Mrs. Laura Zink or Mrs. Angie Mullenmeister, if you’re out there and by the grace of God you happen to read this, PLEASE contact me. I know it’s a long shot…but, crazier things have happened.
Thank a teacher, y’all. I’m not saying that because I am a teacher…I’m saying that because I’ve been blessed with many phenomenal teachers. Some of them I’ve lost touch with, some of who I am still in contact with. But regardless, I will never forget the way they made me feel and the way the changed my life by teaching me how to be a good person. I struggled in school–well, at least until college. I was a horrendous test taker. I just couldn’t handle the anxiety I felt every time I took a test. I couldn’t write an essay to save my life. Reading comprehension and I, we weren’t friends. I struggled hard. Most of my friends were in GT classes, AP classes, etc. But me? Oh no. I was straight regular classes. At times I was a little embarrassed, but you know, that’s what I was capable of at the time. (Fortunately, in case you were wondering, I taught myself how to study in college, and I worked my butt off…so I made it through with a 4.0…something I never would have dreamed of doing in high school. Maybe it was all of those teachers that helped me realize my potential…maybe it’s thanks to them that I was able to succeed at the school of my dreams. [Hook’Em])
I had a big long paragraph listing a lot of the teachers that impacted me…but it kept getting longer…so I went for a bulleted list instead. OCD? No, not me…not at all. (Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery…I’m still working on that first step.)
Mrs. Moore (ironic that we now have the same last name) my senior English teacher. I’ll just go ahead and say that literature and I, well, we didn’t really get along. I could read the words, but couldn’t read between the lines. I couldn’t detect the ‘authors message’, or any of that literature terminology…at least not in high school. I’ll never forget reading Frankenstein my senior year and at one point, just putting the book down and crying. Crying because I didn’t know what the heck I was reading. If I don’t know what I’m reading, how am I going to write a paper (that makes sense), pass a test, or successfully complete a project on it? I went to tutoring (more than once) and Mrs. Moore helped me through it every.single.time. And you know what? She did it with a smile. She didn’t make me feel like a nuisance for coming in. She made me feel loved. She made me feel like I had a purpose…even if it wasn’t in English.
Mr. Moore (I know, two teachers, unrelated, that happened to have my married name…so weird.), my high school Public Speaking teacher. Mr. Moore will forever be one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. He was so intriguing…and straight up honest. If he didn’t like the speech you gave…well, he would tell you. But, he would also tell you how to fix it. And he would make sure you did. He was a professional speaker and actually, still is. At the time, I wasn’t a fan of public speaking, so giving speeches gave me anxiety like whoa! But I knew that while I was giving my speech, I could look back at him and he would be smiling. And without talking, he would bring a sense of comfort to me, just by looking at him. I haven’t seen him since I graduated…but I imagine he is still changing lives, one speaker at a time.
Ms. Causey, my Chemistry teacher. Let’s just be real. It was very obvious at 16 years old that I was not going to be a chemist. Not only was I not going to be a scientist, I needed to be far, far away from science. At the time, I dreaded going to that class because I might as well have been sitting in a foreign language class (more on that later). The concepts were way over my head. I had no idea how to balance a darn chemical equation, and quite frankly, I didn’t see why that was necessary. And I just felt dumb…and honestly, embarrassed. There were sophomores in my class who could pay attention for approximately 15 seconds and then could probably teach the class. Not me. But Ms. Causey…oh I loved her. She was from Louisiana and had the most precious accent. She would get on to kids who were misbehaving but I couldn’t always take her seriously when she was mad because her accent just made me smile. She knew I struggled, but she was always willing to help. She made me feel like she was glad to help me because she could tell I so badly wanted to be successful.
Coach Robinson, my Teen Leadership teacher. Teen Leadership was a class that all freshman were required to take. Essentially, it consisted of giving speeches about provided topics. (Keep in mind I hadn’t had Mr. Moore’s help yet because I didn’t have him until my junior or senior year). I didn’t like speeches, but man, I loved Coach Robinson. I had known him from when I was in 6th grade at West Middle School…he was my PE coach. I was fortunate to have him again in high school. I always looked forward to his smile. He always knew everyone’s names…even from day one. He always took the time to ask how I was and how things were going. He may have done this with everyone…but it sure made me feel special. I never had him as a coach, but I imagine he was an incredible one. In fact, he’s still coach football in Krum. What a blessing he is to those boys. They may not see it right now…but I can promise you, they will.
Mrs. Fryman, my freshman English teacher. Fry Mama was what she went by. Probably because she was like a mom to every student. She was basically a friend…who was our teacher. And boy did she love teaching. She loved everyone and was loved by everyone. She made it fun because her passion couldn’t be hidden. She made it obvious that she cared and that she would do whatever it took for each and every one of her students to be successful. Her hugs were pretty great too. She was the kind of teacher that everyone thought they wanted to be when they grew up (if they wanted to be a teacher). Kids loved being in her room. If you knew her, you’d understand why. You probably knew a teacher like her.
Coach Pease, my 7th grade science teacher. This guy was a riot…and he was Red Raider. He made that known…frequently. Again…science wasn’t my thing…but man did he make it fun. I’ll never forget when he let us pair up and build rockets. A rocket that we would actually be able to launch. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t actually in the curriculum…but somehow he found a way to tie it in because he knew how much we would love it. My rocket’s name was Hola. (Yah, I don’t know. It seemed like a good idea at the time.) Like Coach Robinson (and just about every teacher I’m writing about), he took the time to make each student feel special. At the end of the year, he gave each student a copy of a letter he wrote to us. And on the back were the words to the song “Forever Young”. He played the song and told us that he always wanted us to remember to stay forever young. I didn’t totally get the significance of that at the time…but looking back, that was a really neat thing he did for us. I think I still have that paper, somewhere.
Mrs. Roach, my Algebra I teacher. Guys, I’m telling you. I just wasn’t good at the academic part of high school. I was friends with just about every one, could tell you everyone’s name, but when it came to the academics part…no bueno (there is irony in me speaking Spanish here…you’ll find it further down). But this lady, Mrs. Roach, helped me “get it”. Sure, it took an immense amount of patience on her part, I’m sure…but she did it with a smile. I was good friends with her son at the time, so that may have helped…but seriously, she was a gem. I knew her as a teacher and as a mom. She raised two phenomenal young men–one of them was my dear friend during high school. And during those years, I may have looked up to her as a mom at times. She always made me feel so special. And even if I wasn’t the best at math, she made me feel like I still had a lot going for me. It wasn’t about the math. She didn’t know it at the time, but I really needed that. I needed her constant encouragement…and her hugs.
Mr. Damrau, my senior government teacher. I’m not going to lie. I had heard awful stories about this class–about how dang hard it was. (And if you haven’t caught on yet…I wasn’t the smartest kiddo on the block.) Everyone knew that senior year, you had to take government…and you had to pass to graduate. Fabulous. This should be fun. Looks like I needed to get to know some of the juniors because I may be joining them next year for senior year round 2.
Y’all, this class was HARD. But man, it was incredible. This man was so incredibly passionate about what he was teaching. You couldn’t not get excited about it. Don’t get me wrong, there were lots of essays to write (I’ve already covered what a great writer I was at the time…), and lots of tests to study for (cue the anxiety)…but at the end of the semester, there was a trial. A full on mock trial that we got to orchestrate. We were given the scenario, had to decide on our positions, and then we had to create our side of the story.
Our class was split into two–each group had a different trial. Our trial was about a baby being kidnapped. My friend Brittany and I were the two defense attorneys. Our good friend Corey Kluber (who now happens to be a well-known pitcher for the Cleveland Indians as well as one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet) was the defendant, Javier. I couldn’t even guess how many hours we put into working on our case. We stayed up all hours of the night, multiple nights. We drove all around town gathering “evidence” to submit showing that he wasn’t there at the time of the crime. We made fake boarding passes in Photoshop, took pictures that looked like security footage, and so many other crazy things…just to prove Javier didn’t commit the crime. Once it was time for the trial, we set up a court room and each side presented their evidence with their stories. Mr. Damrau was the judge.
We knew it was fake. We knew we would get a decent grade whether or not we won the trial…but man, we learned SO much during the whole process. And what’s even cooler is that we guided ourselves through that learning…something Mr. Damrau had taught us to do throughout the semester. His passion for government was undeniable…and I will never forget how his passion inspired us to win that trial. (For the record, we won. And it was awesome.)
Mrs. Garnier, my US History teacher. This little lady had short red hair and a glare that could give you chills and possibly make you wet your pants. Fortunately, that glare didn’t make many appearances. She may have been small (and so precious), but man, she was brilliant, too. Learning from her and listening to her talk about our country’s history was a privilege. She came in dressed as different people from history. She made us act out events from the past. And she did it all because she knew some people needed things like that to learn and to truly understand. Some students weren’t successful sitting and listening, then taking a test. (I’m talking about myself. But I’m confident that there were other students in the same boat.)
She made learning interactive and engaging…which is what I think a lot of other teachers were missing. Don’t get me wrong. We took tests and man, they were a doozie. But us strugglin’ folk were able to be successful because of the way she taught us. (Okay, so I don’t actually talk like that but it felt necessary right at that moment.) She’s retired now, which makes me sad, only because I know so many kids are missing out…she was incredible.
Coach Howard, Coach Mashe, and Coach Ganss, my cheerleading coaches from high school. (Okay for those of you who didn’t know I was a cheerleader, go ahead and pick your jaw up off the floor.) Ready for another surprise? I was captain. I don’t often tell people that because it just doesn’t fit my personality…so when people hear that I cheered in high school, they are often surprised. (To be honest, I’m still surprised.) Anywhoo, these ladies…they were a big part of my life in high school.
Coach Howard…oh, Howie. I love this woman. You didn’t want to get on her bad side…because it wasn’t pretty. Fortunately, I was too afraid to do anything bad, so I found myself on her good side most of the time. I never had her in the classroom, but was fortune enough to have her as my cheerleading coach for several years. We went through a lot together. We made her laugh, even when she didn’t want to…we
may have made her cry too. She believed in us…not only as a squad, but as individual kids. She made an effort to establish a relationship with each of us…and now, as a teacher, I see how important it was for her to do that. It took work on her part…but it meant so much. There were times where I straight up didn’t like her…like when she would make me do standing back tucks on the gym floor because she knew I was afraid…but she also knew that I could do it. While I was doing them, if my hands touched the ground, the whole squad ran. Nothin’ like a little pressure…and maybe a bloody nose. But my hands didn’t touch the floor! But the rest of the time, I adored her. I adored her because she made me feel loved. I wish at the time, I would have believed in myself the way that she believed in me.
Coach Mashe…well, I never actually had her as a teacher because she only taught the smart classes. 😉 I’m kind of kidding, but not really…she taught advanced science classes…and let’s face it…the only thing that was I was advanced in at the time, was handwriting. I didn’t have her as a teacher, but I did have her as a coach. And I’m so glad that I did. She knew how to joke and have a good time…but she also knew how to make us work [hard]. Her interest in music–I’ve never seen anything like it. I loved her sense of humor. But I also knew when to take her seriously. When she was hard on us, it was for a good reason. She pushed us to do things we weren’t sure we were capable of. Now she’s all famous and stuff, continuously receiving national awards for her work with technology in the classroom. Y’all, she is legit. This lady is brilliant…and so talented. I’m so thankful that I was able to learn from her…if only I had been smart enough to be in her class…maybe I’d be a scientist. 😉
Coach Ganss…I had Coach Ganss as my Multimedia teacher and she essentially helped me find my passion for computer design. (I obviously never pursued anything in design, but to this day, I still use things I learned in her class.) I loved her class. But more importantly, I loved her…and I loved having her as a coach. She was real. She didn’t put up with nonsense. She saw people for who they really were…and a lot of kids needed that at that time in our lives. She held you accountable. And when it came to coaching, she was darn good at it. She was a cheerleader at Baylor, so I guess she had that goin’ for her.
Ms. Andrade, my French teacher. Y’all (clearly I’m fluent in French). I’m not worldly. I’m just not. I can’t tell you much about countries around the world. I’m not meant to speak another language. I speak
Texan English. (I had to cross out Texan because I felt judgement coming through the computer right when I typed it. Danny, I’m looking at you.) I took a foreign language in high school because I had to. You know, we live in Texas, close to Mexico, lots of Texans speak Spanish, it’s a great asset to have…so I took French, duh. (I’ll still never quite understand what I was thinking.) Learning a second language didn’t come naturally to me (shocking, I know), but there was this teacher I had…a teacher who worked with me all.the.time until I got it. There were a lot of things to get…so when I say she worked with me a lot, I mean it. I wasn’t so great at it then, but now, I can conjugate the heck out of a verb! And this lady, she always smiled. Her smile could light up a room. She made every child feel welcome. If you weren’t good at French, she didn’t hold it against you…she just helped you…and made you feel like you were good at it. Oui, oui!
Oh, and Coach Springer. How could I forget? (I didn’t. I just wanted to save her for last.) Anyone from Coppell knows this. I didn’t know it was possible for one human being to make such an incredible impact on every.single.student they’ve ever met. But somehow, she does it. She makes every single student believe that they are the most important kid in the world…and she gives them the encouragement and confidence to feel like they can conquer the world…all because she makes it known that she believes in them. This lady, was sent from heaven to do one thing…to make a difference in the lives of children. And I’ve never met anyone who is more fitting for that job. To this day, if you see her, she will hug you and love you and make you feel like you are the most amazing student she has ever worked with. Laura Springer, you are absolutely one of a kind. I don’t know how you do it…but you sure are darn good at it. And I, along with every single
child person in and from Coppell, is thankful for you. Everyone needs a Springer in their life. Am I right? (And all God’s people said ‘Amen’!)
After reading through all of those descriptions of teachers that had a profound impact on me as a student, I realized several things:
1) With the way education has changed and the way the expectations have risen, if I were in high school now, I would fail. My heart goes out to kiddos in school now. It’s just not fair.
2) There was a common theme with every teacher I mentioned. Passion. They were all so passionate about what they were doing. They weren’t there for the paycheck (what?!). They were there to make a difference in the lives of children every day. And they did just that. Well done.
3) I was a hot mess when it came to academics. I didn’t fail, but I had to work REAL hard to pull off a B. I did my homework. I studied…and I’m still sure some teachers helped me out without me knowing.
4) I didn’t know it at the time, but these people are miracle workers. They put up with a lot…yet every one of them showed loved. They made their students feel loved, but they also showed students how to love one another. How to be kind. How to make a difference. And those aren’t things you can find in a textbook or in the state standards.
Now I’m racking my brain because I feel like I’m forgetting some important teachers. This is not a list of all of the good teachers that I had. I had many, many more. If I could go back and thank every single teacher I ever had, I would do it in a heartbeat.
As I said before, the purpose of all of this is if there is a teacher/student/parent who made a difference in your life, let them know. Tell them how much they are appreciated. You never know…it might be just what they need to hear.