Recently my family and I took a vacation to South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore. I absolutely love the Black Hills! This trip got me thinking about who I would put on a monument for teachers. Four of my past teachers immediately came to mind. I would place Mrs. Virginia Lindblad, Mrs. Joann Phillips-Walters, Mr. Ken Clark, and Mrs. Chris Wood.
I’ll begin with my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Lindblad. She taught at Sinai Elementary in Kansas City, Kansas. While I have always loved to read, she furthered that passion by getting me hooked on The Little House on the Prairie series. Mrs. Lindblad also showed me the human side of teaching. When she shut that classroom door we knew we’d crossed the line and were in for a good chewing out. However, we knew we were loved and that she always had our best interests at heart. She was also the teacher who was trying new strategies. I remember learning new vocabulary words by acting them out for our classmates. I still remember learning parcel as we read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Next would be my Bonner Springs Junior High (later renamed Pioneer Junior High by my freshmen year) English teacher, Mrs. Phillips. I remember her trying to get me into another English class because she felt I would be more challenged there. However, due to scheduling it wouldn’t work. That didn’t stop her, though. She just differentiated, and that was long before it was a buzz word. I later went on during my freshmen year (we were in the junior high still at that time) to grade papers for her after school. I remember the day the wrestling coach came in to see if she would change a grade so that one of the wrestlers would be eligible for the upcoming meet. She adamantly refused. She offered to tutor, not to fix grades. I learned my resolve from her. I even went on to babysit for her grandchildren when I was in high school. Then, as a high school senior I had to choose a sponsor when I was inducted into the National Honor Society. I could only think of two people, and one of them was Mrs. Phillips (she did become my sponsor). She modeled the academic responsibility of a teacher as well as the even more important nurturing side of teaching.
Up next is my Bonner Springs High School geometry teacher, computers teacher, and debate coach, Mr. Clark. What can I say about him? One word. Amazing. You see I was a very shy and horrible math and computers student. He knew it, and rather than make my life more difficult, worked with me to somewhat understand math and draw me out of my shell through debate. Man, I still do love to argue. As I said, I was terrible in geometry. All those theorems and proofs were more than I could handle. So, I made up my own when I couldn’t figure it out. Again, rather than call me to the board to solve them as we all had to do, he never made me do it. Rather he worked with me, but never embarrassed me. As my debate coach he took the time to pull me out of my shell, and even gave me leadership opportunities. He spent his own time preparing us for debates and taking us to a nearby college library to do research. In fact, he even helped my friends and I plan our Spring Break trip. He was my other choice for National Honor Society sponsor but another friend asked him first. Mr. Clark is another example of a teacher who did more than teach a subject, he helped shape me into the person I am today.
My last candidate for Mount Teachmore is Mrs. Wood, my Bonner Springs High School junior and senior English teacher. While I did not always agree with her, I’ve never met anyone else like her. She refused to let a student fail. It didn’t matter if it was because the student had a truancy issue, lack of motivation, or was just not getting the material. Mrs. Wood did everything she could to make sure they were caught up and passing. I loved to read and just couldn’t stop reading just because those chapters weren’t assigned yet. However, being chapters ahead made it difficult to do well on detailed quizzes. She never penalized me though, rather she graded the notes we were required to keep. When she realized how detailed they were, she knew I had read and understood the material. She even used my notes to help those who were absent. Mrs. Wood had a family of her own to take care of, papers to grade, and lessons to plan. Yet, at every home basketball game, I remember looking up in the stands and there she was. She was supporting her students and grading papers at the same time. There have been many times I’ve taken my grading with me to do as I waited on an event to start and my mom would comment that I was becoming Mrs. Wood. I’ll take that compliment any day! And wouldn’t you know, when I began my first teaching job it was Mrs. Wood who sent a card congratulating me.
These are just four of the teachers who helped shape me not only into the person, but the teacher I am today. If you could create your own Mount Teachmore, who would you choose?