So today was a memorial service for a teacher extraordinaire. She was the lady who opened up the world of classics to me, who pushed poetry toward me, who believed I could write before I could believe. She was the woman who saw opportunities to teach students and then led them. She made learning fun and creative, she delivered consequences and reprimands in a fair and dignified way-so they became learning experiences, and she was sure we were all going to be successful.
She was my mentor; she helped me get into college and even guided me to be where I needed to be. She was there when I graduated with my Masters in English—she was the very first person I recognized when I emerged from the building following the recessional. And she was ever so excited! She was the unassuming, humble woman who lived the “pay forward” philosophy before the movie was ever a word. She went about doing her job without accolades, without recognition, without the monetary reimbursement she was worth. Because, how do you ever put a price on what she gave to all of us, her students? It is and was immeasurable.
She was the compass when I was teaching; when I would finish a lesson on Steinbeck or Cather or Shakespeare, as I would sit at my desk, I could hear her telling me it was a complete lesson, or I had forgotten to tell them something important, etc. She was my guide as to whether I had done my best and given my best. Her voice would be in my head directing me to push harder. Her voice remains in my head.
When I was a senior in high school, in Humanities class, I said I wanted to reach a point where I was “content”. She had a half-smile on her face and I asked her about it later. She said, “I hope you really never get to that place, because then you will stop learning, stop growing, stop reaching for more.” Oh, that stuck with me, so when, after 25 years of teaching high school English, I felt waning excitement and energy, I changed professions. And found the energy again. And at that point I understood the wisdom of her words.
I recall a time when I received an album of poetry for Christmas. I took in Rod McKuen reading his poetry and showed her. She quietly took out a slip of paper, wrote “Walt Whitman” on it and pushed it toward me. She told me that I could find “poetry” by him in the library. She didn’t believe in mediocrity but wasn’t about to tell me that—she just directed me to better. She believed you should learn from the masters, and I believe I did, as she was the epitome of “master”.
So even though she taught me to love the classics, to find, enjoy, and even write poetry, to find my voice on paper, what she really taught me was to keep trying to be better, to keep trying to do better, to keep caring and reaching and growing. She taught me how to always work my hardest at what I was doing, to give my best at everything. She was the beacon of light who kept lighting the way and propelling me to be a better person. She set the example and the light shining on her and in her will always be there for me.
We sometimes forget to tell the people who help us set our vision how important they are to us; we sometimes neglect to thank those who have helped us get to the point in our lives where we begin to give to others. And often we fail to work hard at giving back, in some way, to others because someone gave to us. Has someone touched you whom you need to recognize, to thank for making an experience or opportunity available? If so, do it soon, do it today. And then go on to do for someone else what was done for you, as that is the best way to recognize and appreciate someone who helped you.Tags: a teacher that made a difference, appreciation
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
Licensed Professional Counselor
Advanced Clinical HypnoTherapist
- Deb England began working part-time for Wholeness Healing Center in September 2004 and began full-time in May 2005. Deb practices primarily in the Broken Bow office and one day a week in the Grand Island office. Previously she had completed her practicum and internship at Morning Star Alliance, working in the Broken Bow and Grand Island offices.
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