Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Power of Teachers...

It was six months ago today that my teacher for four classes as well as mentor, role model, and friend of two-plus years passed away due to a heart attack at the age of 68. Charles Trevathan, or Chucky T as I liked to call him (which was apparently how Eleanor Roosevelt—yes, the past first lady—would refer to him; Phyllis Trevathan recently told me that) was not only someone I held in high esteem, but the person I would go to for advice or for when I was having a really bummer of a day and needed someone to cheer me up.

Once I had graduated from ACU I continued to keep in touch with my friend. We emailed on several occasions, but more than that, whenever I would be back in town, I would make every effort to stop by his office and see him just to have a good chat. I remember my last weekend trip to Abilene before his death when I stayed till 2 PM on Monday, instead of leaving on Sunday or getting up early on Monday to head back, simply so I could see him during his office hours. It was funny because when I had left Dallas that Friday for the trip I was telling my aunt I wouldn’t be coming back till late on Monday because I wanted to stick around and see my friend, and when she found out it was a 68 year old professor she kinda gave me a hard time for caring to stick around town so late to visit an older-man friend. I just kinda ignored her opinion and oh how glad am I that I didn’t care that she said that because that was my last chance to see Chuck in person.

I’ll never forget leaving his office for that last time, as he walked me completely out of the building and gave me a hug goodbye. It’s funny too because he had a test he needed to finish typing up for his night class that evening, but he would always push that sort of thing aside to chat with a friend.

One of the most lovable characteristics of Chuck was his love for people! He loved people and teaching was the PERFECT profession for an individual of his character!

Teachers are AMAZING individuals! Yes, Chucky T has been my favorite teacher ever, but he is the perfect example of the impact a teacher can have on a person! It’s funny how the words of a teacher can last with a student longer than most other people’s words. I’ve had several teachers who I will remember forever for some of the encouraging words they have left me with:

Gail Egleston (one of my favorite teachers in high school) signed this in my yearbook: “What a great sense of humor! You always make me laugh. You’re bright and extremely perceptive. When you couple those with doing your best, you are unbeatable! Thanks for making my last year one of my all-time best!” (1999)

Bellvia Gorsuch (my favorite teacher in high school) signed in my yearbooks: “You are one terrific young lady. I do enjoy talking with you each day. You make me laugh. I’m glad I’ll still have you around next year.” (1999). “How will I ever adjust to life w/out your cajoling, your sarcasm, your humor. You have been a delight for 3 1/2 years—you were quiet for ½. Please keep in touch. Good luck. Be happy. I will miss you.” (2000)

BJ McMichae (ACU): I wrote a paper for his class once that he just LOVED! He pulled me and one other girl up to his desk in front of the whole class and was like, “y’all have written some of the best papers I’ve ever read. They were SOO easy to grade and I thank you for that!” Not only that, but about a year later I had his wife for a class and he happened to be talking to her outside our classroom one day and I was going into the classroom and he stopped talking to her and grabbed me and said to his wife, “I didn’t know she was in your class. She is a great writer!”

Willard Tate (ACU): after giving a speech in class one day he said, “You have a great speaking voice.” Exactly what that means, I’m not sure, but coming from a professional speaker himself, I took it as a compliment and have never forgotten it…HA!

Jennifer Shoemaker (ACU): she was my Child Development professor and one day we were doing a workshop thing with little kids. She had brought 10 or 15 kids ages 3-12 years old in and we interacted with the kids for the 1.5 hours. At the end of the class she came up to me and said, “You are really good with kids.”

Charles Trevathan (ACU): there have been MANY things Charles has said to me that I’ll never forget, but one of the things that he said to me, that really has meant SOO much to me, and actually, I bet he didn’t even realize the influence it had on me, was something he would call me in class. It was funny because we liked to joke with one another and he liked to pick on me in class and make me answer questions, when I think he knew I didn’t like talking up in class. Well anyways, one time he said, “Dr. Smith. Well…you are planning to get a doctorate at one point aren’t you?” and I said, “yeah, I want to” and he went on, “Okay, well Dr. Smith….” Believe it or not, that alone has given me so much motivation and confidence to continue my education to this very day! It wasn’t only on that one occasion that he would call me, “Dr. Smith,” he’d done it some other times when I’d go to visit him in his office. But wow, being addressed like that gave me such hope! It made me really think, if he believes in me, I really can do it! Doctorate and all! There’s nothing quite as powerful as someone else’s belief in you,especially coming from someone you admire.

I honestly do believe that teachers and professors can be some of the most influential individuals in a student’s life. Even though I didn’t mention any teachers from my pre-high school years, those teachers touched my life as well (I just have a really poor memory, so I apologize now! HA!). If anything, it is the teachers when a student is really young that can shape that student and influence them the most during that critical time of their development!

So, why do I say all this? Because I’m honored to have had the teachers I did in my lifetime! Teachers don’t get the recognition they deserve!

Something I’ve thought about a lot lately is how it’s funny because they always say once you grow up and have a profession how important it is to be able to draw the line/boundary between work and home. Be able to separate the two. Be able to leave work at work when it’s time to go home. Well if you think about it, teachers can’t do that! A teacher’s work seems to be around the clock. How many teachers do you know that don’t have to take papers home to grade, or work on progress reports from home, or make lesson plans from home. Yes, they have their “conference period” but it’s just that, a “conference period”…not a “grading period.” Teachers are some of the least paid professionals in the world today, yet they have to work more than many other professionals I know.

I count myself very blessed to have four of my close friends going through their final semester of undergraduate work doing their student teaching this semester. I admire my friends Becca, Janaye, Laura, and Misty not only because they are great people, but because they would choose to devote their lives to a career that will not make them monetarily rich, but rich in heart. I still sit in amazement to think of the friends I have that are my age and have already begun teaching this past year, Erin, Janet, JWalk, Melissa, and Sharon.

So I end with this….

Let your teachers become a part of your life! Let them mold you, because they most likely will without you knowing it either way! Get to know your teachers. Take every chance you get to get to know them better, they are just as human as you and I and they have so much wisdom to share with you.

I took every opportunity I was in Abilene to visit my friend and professor Charles. Even without him walking this earth any longer, I visit him just about every time I’m in Abilene, by taking time out of my schedule to stop by the cemetery. It’s something I want and feel I need to do, as I always wanted and felt I needed to visit him at his office many times!

This has been a tribute to teachers on behalf of a teacher who knew the importance of teaching—Charles Trevathan!


Becca said...

I really like that blog. I always like it when people talk highly of their teachers. I have been lucky enough to have some amazing teachers as well and if it were not for their influence, I would not be going into the teaching profession. Have a good week.

Anonymous said...

I attended MHS between 00-04. Mrs. Gorsuch changed my life. Notice I didnt use any "b" verbs. I'm graduating soon from college and I would love to invite her. Do you have any current contact info. Please. Lrobins7@spelman.edu