Watching the Today show this morning, the day before Thanksgiving, as I dressed for work, I listened to recovered Ebola victims give thanks for the trite-but-true things we all cherish—good health and loving friends and families. Of course I am thankful for those things also, but what else?
I considered this as I dried my hair—typically my best thinking time—and realized that I am very grateful to have had some wonderful Mt. Lebanon teachers.
Like everyone, I had a some not-so-good teachers, but as a former teacher, I cut them a break due to either their inexperience (it takes a few years to master the job) or to the long-gone challenge of managing classes of sometimes more than 35 baby boomers.
Most of my teachers were kind, fair and wise people who inspired me, challenged me, boosted my self image and made learning fun—Grandmotherly Grace Leathers, who praised me for knowing my address and phone number in kindergarten… second grade teacher Edith Addelman who noticed me crying in the reading circle and excused me to search for my precious Alice in Wonderland Watch, which I found in the bathroom… inventive fourth grade teacher Shirley Davidson, who made me proud to play the part of a tree in a Christmas play set to Edvard Grieg’s stirring Symphony in C Minor… Fifth grade teacher Lilene Lewis, who believed me when I denied lighting matches in the bathroom and invited the whole class to her wedding… Elva Harbison, who read us sixth-graders tales of how the Chrismas carols came to be and had us write the stories in a book I still have—it was a handwriting lesson… Social studies teacher Frank Lyman, who let me design his bulletin boards after school in seventh grade and chastised me in the cafeteria the following year for “discovering boys and neglecting my school work”… Joe Calley, the eighth-grade art teacher who allowed us to listen to the World Series in class… high school gym teacher Norma Faieta, who knew it was possible to love sports but hate first period swimming… French teacher Art Manion, who demonstrated that a good teacher loves kids first and his subject matter second… AP English teacher Jacqueline Hughes, who taught me virtually everything I know about writing and gave me confidence to write for the public for the last 40 years.
I also am thankful for my daughter’s teachers—in particular fifth-grade teacher Lenny Marcus, who told me, “Elizabeth is going to do what she wants to do when she wants to do it and not a minute sooner, so don’t waste your breath.” He was right, and she has done everything well—on her own terms and timetable! And I am thankful for the teachers who currently are mentoring my grandchildren at Mt. Lebanon Montessori, Howe and Markham schools.
And then there is the caring giving group of women—Sue Fretterd, Barbara Dittmer, Judy Weddell, Maggie Posey, Connie Lightbown and many others—who shared their academic and classroom management experience with me so generously when I became an English teacher at Mt. Lebanon High School. Thanks, good friends.
One of the tough things about being a teacher is that students often don’t recognize the impact a teaching moment has had on their lives until they are well into adulthood. Very few of us return to say “thanks” to the dedicated teachers who helped shape our lives.
So if you have a chance to say thanks to a teacher, do it today. I can guarantee it will make their Thanksgiving.