The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Teacher Appreciation Week

This week was Teacher Appreciation Week. At my school, the PTA provided a delicious breakfast on Monday morning and a delightful lunch today. In between, we were given small gifts, such as a candle with a quote about teachers lighting the path for children, a nifty “tingler” that looks like a wire whisk that you use to massage your head, and nice notes in our mailboxes.

My students also brought in gifts for me, some from them and others from their parents. I was given chocolate, more chocolate, soda, bacon duct tape, bacon cheddar pretzels, several handmade cards, and a brony t-shirt. (I recently mentioned to a student that I was a brony–a male fan of the children’s television series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic–and I have bombarded with ecstatic questions about the show ever since.)

Of course, Teacher Appreciation Week isn’t just about getting presents from parents and students. It is also about expressing appreciation for my own teachers. I have had many teachers in my life, and I have a great deal of appreciation for all of them, but there are a few in particular that I would like to thank here:

The top of the list is my own fourth grade teacher, Kathy McNamara. She is the reason I decided to become a teacher. She believed in exploratory, experiential learning before they were common practices. She encouraged her students to pursue their own interests and let us share them with our classmates. She also had us do a lot of peer teaching, which is how I learned that I was really good at teaching others! She is still teaching at the same school 20 years later, still inspiring students and serving as a mentor to me, even from afar.

Next up is my Sunday School teacher of many different years, Sandy Quinn. She was kind of kooky and she and her husband were convinced that my family spent our Sunday dinners planning ways to confuse them in the coming days, but she loved us and we knew it and loved her for it. My faith, which is not something I mention at school very often, grew under her guidance from the time I was five years old until I graduated from high school. (She taught us off and on for a total of seven years or so.)

No list of my teachers is complete without the mention of three men who taught me in high school: Jim Tallman, my band director who taught me to love music, have fun, and be proud of my geekiness; Gerald Madsen, my freshman English teacher who taught me to stand up for my ideas, to laugh often, and to walk around the classroom with a meterstick; and Dwight Hershberger, the man who taught me to use power tools and to operate a follow spot light. He also taught me how to build stage sets, how to measure twice and cut once, and the fact that Norm Abrams of The New Yankee Workshop was a better builder than the more famous Bob Vila of This Old House.

I had some fabulous instructors in college, like Michele Crockett, Mary Muller, Susan Noffke, Janice Sherbert, and Sharon Tettegah (all College of Education coursework instructors); Karen Gschwend and Yvette Long (my student teaching advisors); and Mats Selen, my Physics Made Easy or Elementary Education instructor and Daniel Kim, my East Asian Languages and Cultures instructor who made us watch Shall We Dansu?, which is a far superior film to Richard Gere’s Shall We Dance?

Finally, I need to thank all of the teachers (and our principal!) I work with at my school! They have mentored me as I have navigated my first two years of full-time teaching, have taught me and allowed me to teach them, and have become my friends and my peers.

Thank you, teachers, past and present, for all you have done. I love each and every one of you and can never thank you enough for your patience, guidance, and teaching!

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