It is fast approaching the end of another school year. The awards banquets take place, the graduation and prom decisions are being made, and this column takes the time to recognize teachers who have made a difference in our lives.
We will start, tongue in cheek, with the negative differences. Just because they are tongue in cheek doesn't mean they aren't real.
To Mr. Malinowski, our fourth grade permanent sub after Mrs. Ackerman went on maternity leave at mid year- thanks for making fun of the doctor's excuse I brought in for strep throat. You obviously didn't know what strep throat is. But, you taught me that sickness is never an excuse. Unfortunately, you did so in front of the whole class.
To Mrs. Hamilton, our fifth grade permanent sub after Mr. Slagel left to become a principal at mid year- Thanks for making fun of the fact that I was afraid to speak in public. It made me resolve that I would master that fear, and never again be laughed at for speaking in public. By the way, reference to what you pointed out to the class, my hands no longer shake when I talk to a group, as I do every day.
Actually, the differences that were made in my life weren't negative, just the manner of acquiring them.
To the drama teacher whose name I don't remember- thank you for telling me, though very gently, that I wasn't suited for the part of Fred, or any other part, in "The Christmas Carol." When Coach Berkey found me wandering the halls, looking obviously dejected after 7th grade musical tryouts, he invited me down to wrestling tryouts, where he "had an idea I might fit in better." A quick takedown and pin on Marty Turner got me a hug from Coach B., a place on the team, and a sport that took me all the way through college.
There are teachers whom we all remember, and some of them are good in different ways than others.
Coach Ford, Coach Berkey, Coach Kasimankas- they made a tremendous difference in my life. Each had very different styles, but each was fantastic in his own way. Coach K. was into experiential learning; his classroom was a social studies laboratory, as was his defensive backfield. Coach Ford was very straight forward and paternal, with all kinds of fatherly advice. Coach Berkey was- well, an art teacher, and a little bit more about pushing us to find our "individuality", whether on the wrestling mat, or in the art room. " Be yourself, not somebody's clone!" was his rally cry.
Mrs. Kitman made me believe I could write. Mrs. Pedrotti nursed me through algebra. Mr. Ruane made history come alive. Mr. Byers tied biology to real life. Coach Reese, the girls' PE teacher, showed us why etiquette and manners mattered to girls, and should matter to us. Ms. Hortensky made sense out of Shakespeare. Frau Rose took us to Germany, in our imaginations.
All of the above had one thing in common. They cared. A lot. One of my favorite bumper stickers " I touch the future. I teach."
Clyde Davis is a Presbyterian pastor and teacher at Clovis Christian High School. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org