Saturday, December 02, 2006

Who was your favorite teacher?

I was listening to a story today about a teacher. That got me thinking. If I had to pick one favorite teacher, who would that be? And, more importantly, why? What are the characteristics of a "favorite" teacher? Is it the subject they teach? Is it the teacher's knowledge and/or love of the subject? The time in one's own life? Did that teacher motivate me to aspire to do something I never would have done otherwise? Did that teacher motivate me to be someone more than the person I thought myself to be?

As I thought about the question in my own mind, I realized I could not pick out just one teacher. I was fortunate to have had many great teachers during my school years. However, my favorite teachers always had two traits in common: They cared for their students AND they made me feel special in some way.

One memory stands out to me. I was in sixth grade and there was a not-so-popular girl being picked on by a group of students. My teacher stepped in to stop it. Later, Mr. O asked a number of girls to stay after school. Mr. O told us that the reason he was talking to us was because he felt we were students who could turn things around. He appealed to us to befriend this girl and, by that process, make it less likely that this girl would be the target of teasing and harassment. I don't remember the girl's name. I will always remember the lesson.

In high school, I signed up for Chemistry because it was something I felt I "had" to take. I was getting a very uninspiring "C" in the class. For some reason, my Chemistry teacher talked to me and told me he believed I would start getting A's on my tests before the end of the quarter. Just that small conversation motivated me to study harder. Not only did I end up with A's for the rest of the school year, but I went on to major in Chemistry and spent many years as an environmental chemist.

Of course I can't end this diary without mentioning my mother. She spent many years teaching elementary children. Her patience with students resulted in the placement of the "problem" students in her classrooms. She made sure those students got special attention so that they could go on to be successful. My mother was uncomfortable with recognition and never sought out the spotlight. Still, other teachers understood her value. She was recognized by her peers as a class act and was voted "Teacher of the Year" in our town the year she retired. It was a proud day for me.

The list goes on, but I would rather read your comments—and your stories. Who was your favorite teacher and why?


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