May 7 through May 11 is PTA Teacher Appreciation Week. In honor of our teachers who often selflessly sacrifice their time an energy in the hopes of reaching children and teenagers, each day this week, we would like to present stories of inspiring teachers that have been submitted to us.
By Ginny Clark at Lovejoy High School – Lucas, Texas
To this day, I only remember three things from my high school chemistry class: The significance of a hypothesis in the scientific method; a handful of symbols in the periodic table; and, my teacher, Mr. Bowen.
Ironically, the one subject that produced a formidable dread in my stomach on test days also produced a teacher that I will never forget.
Mr. Bowen's hair was gray, although it appears in shades of silver to me now. He was a short man with a portly build, yet my mind's eye envisions a gentleman of great stature. I can still hear his voice resonating through the classroom, austere and gruff, yet undertones of respect and affection belied his surliness.
Mr. Bowen tutored me before and after school, on test days, and in between. I remember he would draw pictures - so many pictures - of molecules and compounds and fission and fusion, hoping that I would understand. He had a dry wit, and on one occasion, after asking me what I planned to do with my life, Mr. Bowen told me to stay as far away from beakers and Bunsen burners as I possibly could!
We both laughed, and somehow I knew that he loved his students more than he loved his lab. While Mr. Bowen did succeed in teaching me the fundamentals of molecules and their interactions, that was not all I learned.
Because of him, patience, kindness, and compassion are the benchmarks in my own classroom; empathy and enthusiasm serve as my mantra; and what I want my students to remember most about me is that I always greeted them with a smile. I don't know what has happened to Mr. Bowen, but I hope he's still teaching chemistry somewhere. He was tough, yet he was tender. He was the embodiment of all those good qualities that teachers should be.
Like me, most everyone has a story to tell about a special teacher that has impacted their life. In fact, if former students everywhere were to list traits that describe one of their favorite teachers, those lists would probably look very similar, with a spirit of “winsomeness” at the top.
Noted author and lecturer Charles Swindoll defines winsomeness as the “ability to cause joy and genuine pleasure in the thick of it all.”
In the classroom, I imagine that winsomeness is partly intuitive and partly a shrewd tactic teachers hone in order to create a warm and successful learning environment. Mr. Bowen epitomized winsomeness and Mrs. McKnight understood it as well.
Mrs. McKnight taught music. As fourth graders, we would run to her class--a hub of sound and excitement--shouting out dubs for one of the vast assortment of percussion instruments in her room.
We reveled in the lyrics of “Texas, Our Texas” and “Kum Bah Yah,” our voices screeching out the high notes and belting out a boisterous thud for the low ones. Yes, we were singers and musicians; Mrs. McKnight saw to that!
She believed music was synonymous with love and laughter, a panacea for all the world's woes, and she wouldn't allow her students to think otherwise. Because I played the piano, Mrs. McKnight chose me to accompany the class during the annual Christmas program.
I practiced for weeks and was ready for the big night; however, a last-minute case of stage fright sabotaged my rendition of “Little Drummer Boy” and the class's performance. My tempo and the “pa-rum-pa-pum-pum’s” were out of sync, and so were most of my chords.
After the show, Mrs. McKnight consoled her teary-eyed pupil, telling me that no one had heard my mistakes. And, as always, her winsome charm prevailed. Indeed, while helping students cultivate their musical talents, Mrs. McKnight demonstrated her own rare ability. Through music, she instilled those life lessons of childhood, lessons of confidence and self-esteem that ultimately foster well-rounded, responsible adolescents and then adults.
There are so many teachers I could acknowledge. There was Mrs. Wiggington, who taught 6th grade language arts and whose passion for reading segued into my own. There was Mr. Patterson who was able to translate the properties and values of integers into a language that right-brained students like me could understand.
And there was Coach Stumbo, who never took himself or his class too seriously, yet convinced all his students that the value in studying the past was to understand how to make a greater tomorrow. No doubt, the teachers I remember are those who taught much more than the objectives in their lesson plan. Their goals were far-reaching; they were hitting for the fences. Even when that school year was over, I never really left their classroom.
The winsomeness, compassion, and caring of those teachers I'll never forget continues to live on.
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