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 #15: School Teachers




Teachers I have known

and One Teacher I haven’t known before today


Mrs. Grimaldi was a teacher I will always remember. She taught 6th grade English. Not only was she interesting and smart, but she let us write our own booklet ­ we were studying myths and I made mine about “Ah-Choo, God of Sneezes.” I stlll have that booklet! I illustrated it myself.


Mrs. Grimaldi made her class fun. Mr. Rollings, our Drama teacher at AIS for 9th grade, was very strict but hilarious. He threw himself into every class, and didn’t judge you for “wrong” opinions.


The only teacher I didn’t like in school was the one who didn’t like my book report. It all happened in fifth grade. My teacher, Mrs. Lawrence, said I copied it, and I didn’t. She said I copied it off the book jacket because it used “big words” that I shouldn’t have known. English was always one of my best subjects, mainly because I read so much. I guess she didn’t know me very well, but still... that teacher should have asked somebody first ­ not just assumed that I had cheated. It hurt my feelings that she thought I could do something like that.


My Mom came to my rescue. Luckily, the book I had checked out was on the shelf in the library when my teacher, my Mom and I went to see it. PLUS it had its book cover right on it. Of course, the book jacket was totally different. (Because I had written the report, not somebody else, and I NEVER copy.) The teacher was really mad that she wasn’t right. I could tell. She apologized to me, but I could tell it wasn’t a real apology. Why is it that some people just don’t get it?


Most of my other teachers in grade school and high school seemed really happy being teachers. That’s one reason I chose to go back to Western and get my teaching certification. I wanted to get a job that would have meaning. What meaning is there to brochures and business cards? You can do a nice logo or card, but eventually, somebody is going to throw it out. So you are not really making a difference. Another reason was, I had an opportunity to get help going back to school. I got laid off from my job, then I went to the unemployment office and they told me, yes, they DID have a program to help people who wanted to go back to school. I had to choose from off of a list they gave us ­ and I chose a Certification Only program.


BRADD ­ the Barren River Area Development District, pays for part of a chosen student’s schooling. You have to pass the written test first so they know you don’t need remedial classes. I was nervous, but passed it just fine. There was a class of 8 who filled out forms with me and went to orientation.


Why did I chose teaching?


I always thought that teaching school would be perfect for me ­ because I enjoy people and would be doing something worthwhile. PLUS, the time off (like summer) would be a great added benefit. I was looking forward to that before I learned that I needed to get my Master’s probably in the summers. Oh well. And I could be a substitute teacher if I wanted to. Another plus (and a big one) was that I wanted to write. Being a teacher, though it takes a LOT of time, would also allow me to write during part of the year. That’s a major asset of that job.


My hero, Stephen King, used to be a teacher. He didn’t really like it that much. It took up his writing time. As soon as he could quit, he did. That was before all his bestselling books were published. He remembers getting his first really big check from the publishers. It was a great feeling. I hope I get that same feeling someday.


Why I chose English and Allied Arts to teach


I love Art, but chose English and Allied Arts because I would finish sooner. In one year, I’ll join the ranks of real teachers and maybe even have my own class. I doubt that will happen, though, because my area of expertise is English (and Art) ­ and mostly (around here anyway) English and Allied Arts teachers aren’t as much in demand. It turns out Art teachers are more in demand than I’d thought, but they have to travel a lot sometimes. Taking art classes is very time-consuming. I don’t think I’d have been able to pull that off in 2 years. They have you work a LOT outside of class, kind of like my speech class this year. The Allied Arts part was added in to the requirements for an English teacher because schools need speech coaches, drama coaches, and journalism people to head up clubs. These courses will be very good to have (Theater in the Schools, Journalism in the Schools, and Argumentation). It’s possible that I may be helping with these areas or even being in charge somewhere.


What makes a good teacher?


A good teacher:


1. Helps every student in his/her class learn.

2. Does not pick favorites.

3. Incorporates diversity education in his/her classroom.

4. Is committed to excellence.

5. Always keeps learning to stay ahead of new ideas.

6. Works with other teachers and staff to help students.

7. Knows each student’s learning styles in order to help them learn better.

8. Enjoys their work.

9. Is clear about assignments and grading.

10. Inspires their students to do their best.

11. Provides a fair, safe environment for students.

12. Does work outside the school, if needed.

13. Takes care of themselves in order to do their best job.


You can still be a really good teacher and not do all of these things. It’s mainly a guideline and what they tell us in my Education classes. Another good quality of a teacher: they are inspiring. They make their students want to do their best.


My grandmother was a teacher, actually a “schoolmarm” in Wyoming a long time ago. She taught all ages in a one-room schoolhouse. She met my grandfather there; he used to come calling at the school on horseback, tethering it there. That sounds so romantic to me. I wish I’d known her, but she died very young of a brain tumor and my Aunt Marge (her daughter, and the oldest) ended up helping raise her younger brothers, one of whom was my Dad. If my Grandma Hirst were alive today, I’d say,


“Grandma, you inspired me so much. You are the main reason why I went back to school.” I would sit down beside her and tell her about how teaching has changed through the years and listen to her stories about teaching and homesteading out West in 1927. What was it like out there right after the Homestead Act? What were her students like? Did you actually live at the school? I would dearly love to know. I wonder who her friends were ­ did she miss her old home in Kentucky?


Grandma would listen patiently, and tell me how proud of me she was. “Betsy, I’m sorry we never got to meet each other,” I hear her say. “But we have so much in common. We both feel a need to help other people, and both of us have never lost sight of what is truly important. I believe in family, and I believe in teaching the very best you can. I know that you are going to make me very proud.


“It’s important to believe in your students and to help them grow and learn in order to be good citizens. Remember that, and never forget. Let me tell you about my students. Joe Thompson went on to be the town Clerk, did you know that? And little Suzie Brown married that rascal Mike Lawrence, and they had eight wonderful children. All Mike used to want to do is play at recess. He was a dreamer, but so smart. He was the best reader in his whole class. And do you know, I taught Mike and Suzie’s son James for a whole year before I left for the ranch with your grandfather? He was the spitting image of his Dad. Oh, how I do miss those kids sometimes.


“Well, before I go, (she would add...) I want you to know that I am sorry that I wasn’t able to meet you and watch you grow up. But know that I wish you the very best and I love you very much.”


I cried as I wrote this, because until now I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed her, because I never met her. I guess I thought you really couldn’t miss someone unless you had the chance to meet him or her first. Now I know this isn’t true. How funny it is... you explore your past, and write something the other person might say to you, and how real it seems.


The only thing I used to have to remember her by is an old photograph. And she doesn’t look very well in the photo ­ sadness is what I feel when I see it. She and my grandpa are standing by a car, and she is wearing a hat pulled over on her head so you can’t really see her face all that well. I think she was crying that day. Had she just come back from the doctor? Is that why they had taken the car? Had he told her what was wrong with her?


I had better go for now, but I want to thank you for the kind words, Grandma Hirst. You can’t know what they mean to me. Goodbye again for the very first time.


I looked for my grandmother's picture, and I found it, along with a picture of an old Wyoming schoolhouse of the period.




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