My kindergarten teacher didn’t exactly fit the mold for someone tasked with motivating 6 year olds. He was wiry, thin with sunken cheekbones and blond, wispy hair. Smiles were infrequent, and his methods stern. When he handed out papers bulbous knuckles protruded from sinewy fingers. His methods were unpredictable, and, frankly, he was a tad frightening. I don’t remember much about learning to count or the disadvantages of eating glue (but I can count now, and I only infrequently sample the Elmer’s), but I do remember the rooster he brought into the classroom. And I remember how fascinating it was to dissect an owl pellet. And I remember watching those sinewy fingers tap a maple tree and a satisfying smile spread between those same, sunken cheekbones. Somehow he instilled in me an appreciation for the outdoors through unpredictable, arresting methods. I think maybe it was simply because he cared.
It wasn’t until much later, into my adulthood, that I realized how much he meant to me as a teacher. I love the outdoors, and so much of my fondness, I realize, stemmed from the passion he shared with us kindergartners. I wish I had thanked him. That I had known enough to tell him what he was doing mattered, and that it made a difference.
Both my parents are teachers. When I’ve seen my mother the most satisfied is when she wells up reading a thank you letter from a former student, years later, simply sharing with her the impact she’s made. I’ve missed my chance to tell Mr. Miller what he meant to me, and that’s an unfortunate reality for many of us adults. But our kids, being taught and inspired right now, they still have the chance. And all it takes is a note with two simple words: Thank You.
Other favorite teachers from our team:
Now that I’m grown I can’t help but smile at the sheer embarrassment I felt over my mother’s occupation as our elementary school librarian. It’s amazing how different that memory looks through my adult eyes! I know that I have her to thank for my interest not only in literature, but art, politics and geography as well. As a librarian, my mother opened a world to me through books that I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. I will be eternally grateful for that gift.
Beginning of my sophomore year in college I had a professor who taught us very well in the classroom, but more than that he taught us how to prepare for the ‘working world’. He was an inspirational teacher and shared with us his career story- once a newspaper reporter to Editor-in-Chief to college professor- and how each job helped him become who he is today. I thank him for helping me realize what I was learning in each class and how to apply it to better myself professionally.
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