Thursday, May 10, 2007

Teacher Appreciation -- My Mentors and Inspirations

As I've already mentioned more than once in this series, my life has been touched in many ways by those who are fulfilling the teaching role in life. We all have our "favorites"--or at least that is what I've always thought...HA! My blog that will be ending this series tomorrow will bring up the point of "favorites" through a quote that I think sums up the HEART a passionate teacher possesses! Tomorrow's blog I think will pull together the encompassment of who a GREAT teacher really is through and through, so I hope you'll check back tomorrow for that final installment.
Today, I want to piece together a few cartoons that I found fun, some more quotes that I found so true pertaining to the educational setting and teaching, and finally, mix in some tributes to some of MY favorite teachers and professors who have influenced and inspired me.

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains.
The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.
~William Arthur Ward

I use the words "teacher" and "professor" pertaining to the level of education in which the individual is working from. For instance, I believe a role fulfilled in the kindergarten through senior high school grades is a role for a teacher, because it is this individual that truly is "teaching" their students. It is in K-12 that we are "taught" the foundations and building blocks for knowledge. We are taught that 3+5=8. We are taught that "he" and "she" are pronouns. We are taught that water can take on three forms: solid, liquid, and gas. By the time we advance into the higher education system (i.e. college coursework) we have hopefully learned the basics. We have a firm foundation of knowledge and now it is time to see what that knowledge can look like in different forms. It is almost like we are not taught at this point, but rather shown a different understanding of what we might already know. At this point, I feel the individual in front of the classroom is professing to use, rather than teaching us much new information. They are professing that when you take some of the things you were taught in grade school and look at them in this way, you can see this: _________. They profess that what we know can be looked at in so many more ways!

For me, considering teachers I have had, one name sticks out above the rest. This was a freshman high school teacher for me. She was one that I could not STAND when it came to homework time, but today--reflecting back--I am so greatful for the tasks she put before with our writings. I credit her today with much of my writing abilities. Mrs. Gorsuch had a way with students. She's an itty-bitty thing. Basically one of me. But she could sure put the fear of death in ya! HA! She loved her students and let us all know it! I would "visit" her often throughout the remainder of my high school career. Even came back to see her when I'd be back "home" from college. Today, I still have the pleasure of keeping in touch via email with her. Sure, we talk a LOT less frequently today than in our past, but I will still always owe so much to her for the support she showed "her girls" as she always put it!

Don’t tell them how to do it,
show them how to do it and don’t say a word.
If you tell them, they’ll watch your lips move.
If you show them, they’ll want to do it themselves.
~Maria Montessori

When it comes to professors, a few come to mind...

At the beginning of the week when I gave a plug for this blog series via my AIM away message, a friend of mine instant messaged me to ask "who is your favorite teacher of all time, considering from kindergarten to your masters education." I was quick to know that I could not narrow it down to one individual. I explained that I feel each of my "favorites" have played different roles in my life, adding their own contributions that I needed, especially at that particular time, which have left me feeling so grateful to this day for my encountering them. This is a good explaination of how you'll see that my "favorite" professors from my college career differ based on what I felt I learned from them and how they touched my life.

A master can tell you what he expects of you.
A teacher, though, awakens your own expectations.
~Patricia Neal

First, there's Mr. Tate. The love I had for this man as a professor truly came from his style of presentation. This man knew how to reach people through a "classroom lecture." He made it more than a "lecture." His classes were complete interactions! He knew the facets of keeping an audience wanting more; how to make people feel what you're telling them! The singing, the out-pouring of love for one-another in the class, the visual demonstrations. He understood the importance of the human spirit and how to embrace it through song, hugs, and the laughter! What an amazing man! It was no wonder he's been such a successful public speaker!

Teach your students to use what talents they have;
the woods would be silent
if no bird sang except those that sing best.

Second, I have to bring it home to a professor from my discipline, Dr. Beck. Brilliant man. Might even be too brilliant for his own good, he would probably be willing to joke! HA! A great sense of human mixed with a mind willing to absorb more and more of what it loves--the study of human behavior (now what's more exciting/fascinating/fun than a combination of those two!?!?! Okay, maybe I'm alone on this one...HA)! If you're willing to doubt my categorization of "brillance", feel free to take a moment of your time to check out his amazing blog, which will most likely leave you lost and confused like me about 80% of the time because he uses too big of words for me! HA! Besides my love for humor, intelligence, and a passion for human behavior--this man as a professor kept me interested in class because I saw him as more "one of us" rather than "one of them." Allow me to explain: Dr. Beck isn't as "old" as the typical "college professor" is invisioned to be. Plus #1 for being more like "us." But beyond that, he was "cool." He was into things we were as students. He would joke with the class about things that weren't your typical joking material with other professors. Going back to what I mentioned in yesterday's blog entry, the way in which he influenced me based on the stage of development I was in was how I was able to see him as "different" and "out-of-the-box" in an university setting that was known for being structured with rules and expectations. Honestly, I can recall how one of my best friend and I would sit in his classes and comment on things like how "I can't believe Dr. Beck just said 'crap' in his lecture!" HA! I mean come on now, a professor "can't" say things like that in class. Or can he? He was himself. Yes, he's a Christian man, but he is human--and he was never afraid to be himself in class and not try to fit into the "mold" that the university invisioned all of their professors to be in. Like I said, check out his blog. You'll see he's willingness to discuss topics that would be considered "taboo" but he opening writes the words--I love it!

The secret of education is respecting the pupil.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Finally, I guess you could say I saved the best for last. And any of you who know me, know what's coming here, but I have to pay my respects to a man that touched my life in many ways. Mr. Trevathan taught me the importance of a person! This man knew how to love people! He knew that behind a name was a human being that was worthy of being addressed by his/her name. He knew that we all have potential and he believed in anyone who was willing to believe in his/herself. He loved no matter the ethnicity of the person, the race of the person, the gender of the person, the socio-economic status of the person, or the way they preferred their chicken cooked. He influenced me because he SHOWED me that he believed in me. He would reference me as "doctor" and when I would laugh he'd say, "well you are going get a doctorate one day, aren't you?" HA! It was funny because I can't even ever really remember if I'd ever mentioned that to him before or not, but he just knew his students. He was great with names! You could mention a past student of his and he would say, "Oh yes. And she sat right over there in my Ethics class." Something I loved about Mr. Trevathan was how his importance of knowing people's names and addressing them by their name carried over into his emails. I noticed rather quickly that all of his email correspondences to me always started with "Kim:" Because of my love for that and my belief that addressing someone by name, I have continued that practice of addressing probably 98% of my emails to people in such a manner. Still, beyond this, Mr. Trevathan knew what was important in life--he was wise enough to see past what the world might tell us is important...

Probably my foundest memories of Mr. Trevathan came from my times spent with him talking in his office rather than in the classroom. Granted, I'll admit, I LOVED his classes (took all four that he taught) and I always openly admit that he was the only professor I felt I could stand taking a 3-hour night course from and not worry about finding myself dreading having to go to class! HA! But my visits to his office were special to me because he always took the time to meet with students, because he knew that was important, especially to them. I was never a student to go visit professors for one-on-one visit time. That sort of thing always made me nervous! HA! And I'll admit, it did with Mr. Trevathan too, but I knew I would rather go in and be nervous and get to spend some time joking with him and learning from him, than not. But the visit I'll remember the most was the time when I went to the front desk worker and said I was wondering if Mr. Trevathan was in. She said she knew he had stacks of tests to grade and that he had closed his door asking to not be disturbed, but she said, hold on, and she proceeded to call him and tell him I was there. I had already planned to leave and said, "oh don't worry about it," but to my surprise he said, "Oh, send her right in." I went in and was barely able to find him behind the mounds of tests and papers he had stacked on his desk to grade, but he popped out from behind them and shifted them over and propped his feet up and proceeded to ask about my day!

They're all stories I've shared many times before about Mr. Trevathan, but they still influence me to this day. The power of the actions of an individual in our life can last for many years. Unfortunately, Mr. Trevathan passed away about 2.5 years ago, but since then I've been blessed to keep in touch with his lovely widow. They both understood the importance of loving people and making that a priority!

A teacher
Takes a hand
Opens a mind
Touches a heart
Shapes the future.

This weekend starts the college graduations for the first semester of college classes that I have not been a part of for the past 6+ years. I do not have the pleasure of sitting in a classroom and being influenced by the one at the "head-of-the-class" nowadays, but luckily, my classroom stories have not ceased! I always welcome stories of laughter, love, hardships, frustrations, and uncertainties pertaining to the school setting! Fortunate for me, I have some amazing friendships with educators! I am blessed to have two best friends that are young teachers and many, many more friends who find themselves in a classroom on a daily basis.

I want to thank those who are willing to let me share in their stories from the classroom! To Ms. Singleton, Ms. Osborn, and Ms. Willcox--I love to hear about it, so don't hesitate to share your experiences with me (the good, the bad, and the ugly...HA)! Still, I love knowing so many other friends are experiencing the true opportunity of helping others through giving them the gift of knowledge! As Oprah says, and I agree, an education is what can set us free!

My blessings and respect to my friends in the educating profession:
K. Bailey
K. Flynn
B. Hall
H. Inwood
J. Kripner
M. Mitchell
R. Osborn
E. Sedwick
J. Singleton
L. Singleton
J. Takala
J. Wideman
M. Willcox
S. Williams
A. Witcher
[The above pictured comics were taken from “Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul: Stories to Open the Hearts and Rekindle the Spirit of Educators” by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen]

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