I Appreciate My Teachers

I got a letter in the mail on Saturday from my local representative. It was a nice letter, maybe a form letter – probably a form letter, but it recognized the plight and reward of being in the education profession and acknowledged the difficulties and joys of my job.

It was nice to be “recognized”, but I feel like I need to share that goodwill.

I’m going to tell the truth here- there are days that this profession beats you down. I’m not saying that for sympathy, nor do I think that it is the only profession with challenges. My point, instead, is to simply say that on those bad days, I look for something positive and what do I come back to? Family, for sure, but also my former teachers. And I often realize that they don’t know how much I appreciate them.

Mr. Kay probably doesn’t realize that I still remember his pep talks he would give me when I found high school overwhelming, or that I now use one of his funny anecdotes as an assignment with my students.

Mr. Aliaazi probably knows how much I feared him, but probably doesn’t know how much I revered him for the passion that fueled his lectures about dead men whose names I couldn’t pronounce nor really cared about their existence until his pupils became dilated from excitement when he shared their tales.

Mr. Bartunek, now known as Father Bartunek (whom Mel Gibson sought insight from for Passion of the Christ) probably doesn’t realize that he is the one who taught me to respect my colleagues the most. He was my teacher and baseball coach. He had a sister who was an American Gladiator (we didn’t believe him until Electra actually came to class one day). He’s also the one that, accidentally taught me to swear in Italian, and gave me the freedom to respectfully question and focus. He was also the reason why I wanted to go to Stanford (didn’t quite make it) and the reason why I told my baseball players to take 100 swings a night.

The late Mr. Wagie probably never knew that I still know a few lines of Silent Night in German, or that he fostered my obsession with Dixon Ticonderoga pencils after he read us a story about them in 5th grade and then GAVE us each one, or that he was the one that most likely kick started my interested in writing.

Mrs. Dutton (1st grade) probably doesn’t realize that I appreciated the fact that she treated us as kids, but as kids that she knew would grow up one day. The times that she would sincerely cry for joy when we did something wrong, or when she was simply trying to get us to make better decisions.

The late Ms. English probably didn’t know how big of an impact she had on me as a young adult. She convinced me to be a teacher. She helped me focus on my future, but still encouraged me to dream.

Coach Johnston probably doesn’t know that I still hear his New York accent and see the determination and support in his eyes when he willed me to demand more of myself. He taught me a lot about self respect and accountability. And he also taught me that it is okay for tough guys to care about others.

Mrs. Pribble probably doesn’t know that I was a double major in college (English and Theater) because of her class. Though I was in sports and afraid of the stage at the time in high school, I never auditioned for a show, but my eyes were opened to a whole new world. She also made me read a play called Fences (which I highly recommend). She probably doesn’t know that because of her influence, I went ahead and read the rest of August Wilson’s plays and he has always been my favorite playwright.

Dr. O’Neil probably doesn’t realize that when he made me teach Shakespeare that I hated the Bard. Now I enjoy his plays more. Or that when he read my writing he encouraged me to write plays…and I have. Or that I occasionally call my students “young scholars” because he used to do that with our class (I had him as a student and a student teacher) and somehow that made me feel a little confident when I usually felt overwhelmed.

Mr. Teeple probably doesn’t remember drawing a parabola around my head. On the wall. In the back corner. Where I tried to hide in math. I had to be the worst math student in the history of numbers, and yet I don’t think he realizes how much it meant that he wouldn’t give up on me.

Mr. Garrett probably doesn’t realize that he inspired me to write as an adult. I was back visiting, and he was talking with a colleague about a manuscript that he was writing. It made me want to create, to explore writing again. And so I did.

I could go on and on – and probably should. Here’s the interesting thing to me though- in each of these cases, the lessons I learned, the inspiration I got, was bigger than a lesson or a subject area. All of these people are a part of my journey of who I am today.

And for that, I am appreciative.

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