I am not a teacher, but I know a few. I know young and old teachers, those who teach in the inner city and those who teach in upper class suburbs. Some teach little ones, others high school. And I can tell you this: Every teacher I know is a hero.
We all know the job of a teacher. Their job is to spread knowledge to the kids, prepare them for life. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. Being a teacher is like being a parent. These lives are in your hands. Everyone remembers their teachers growing up- whether you liked them or not, you can probably admit that they made some sort of impact on your life. That's not an easy task. You always have to be on your game, ready to answer questions, to be patient, to be honest. And if you have one bad day, one bad HOUR, people attack you. Teachers are the number one source of knowledge for our kids.
Do you know that most teachers work over 50 hours a week? They come in the classroom early, leave late. They grade papers in the evening and on weekends and heck sometimes even go into their classroom on the weekend to get it ready for the week. And yet, the profession has one of the lowest paying salaries.
And guess what? They don't just teach the basic subjects or extracurriculars. They teach about life. They lead by example, giving kids the chance to have a role model. They push kids to try their hardest, never give up, aim higher, set goals.
I am telling you all of this because I can pretty much promise that today, December 17th, was one of the hardest days in a teacher's life. The Newtown tragedy is very, very fresh in our minds and hearts and millions of children are stepping into school very scared. And it will be up to the teachers to comfort them and to answer their questions. They don't have to, of course. They could ignore it and go about their day. But they won't, because they are teachers, and because they care a whole lot about your kids. They are invested. They would go to the ends of the earth to see them succeed and to protect them. God bless you, teachers.
I want to end by sharing some personal stories about a few teachers that I know. I can name every teacher I've ever had, I probably have a story for each of them. But I have four I want to tell you about today.
I bet you didn't see that one coming, did ya. So Mrs. Carolin is this teacher I know. She teaches second grade at St. Hugo and has for sixteen years. She's pretty extraordinary, if I do say so myself. There are a couple of things that make her so special. First and foremost is she really fricken cares about the kids. I don't know how else to say that eloquently. I know this is a fact because I lived with the lady for fourteen years of her teaching at Hugo and have heard the stories of every single student that have passed through her classroom. I know this because several times she has been the contact person in the face of a tragedy. I know this because I can't step foot near St. Hugo's campus without someone stopping me to tell me how wonderful she is. Another reason she's so special is her teaching method. She's unique in that she has her old school way of thinking, but is also incredibly innovative. She's had to adapt to technology in the classroom and now she uses it more than I do. She uses a format called Workshop that teaches kids skills and information, but allows them to work at a pace that works best for them- because Mrs. Carolin is one of those teachers that knows not every kid learns the same way. I have sat in her classroom before, both as a student and as a visitor. But I'm the lucky one who got to have her as my mom, too. I have seen the hard work she puts into her students and her work. I know how late she works, how sometimes her bones ache from all the emotion and demands. But I also know that she wouldn't choose to be anywhere else but in A-1, teaching those kids. And that's why she's a hero.
Mrs. Currier was my English/Literature teacher in 7th Grade at St. Hugo. Let me set the scene for you a little bit and give you an insight on 11/12 year old Megan. I was shy. I had a solid group of friends but was not one of the "popular" girls by any means. In fact I actually HAD been friends with them at some point, but somewhere between sleepovers, soccer games, and spelling bees, they decided I wasn't cool enough for them anymore. But that's not the point. The point is, I always saw myself as average. I did alright in school, getting a's and b's, I just never saw myself as extraordinary or as having any kind of talent. Mrs. Currier was the first person to change that. She was passionate about reading and writing, and that passion somehow was passed along to me. I fell in love with words. She was tough, trying to prepare us for high school, but I also remember how compassionate and enthusiastic she was, cheering each of us on and encouraging us to do our best. Mrs. Currier helped me to discover a whole new world of learning. I remember specifically one project where we had to pick our favorite song and write a paper about the lyrics. I cannot for the life of me remember which song I picked (which probably makes this story a bit of a let down), but I do remember how intrigued I was by my classmates choices and their presentations. Mrs. Currier is still teaching 7th grade at St. Hugo, and I cannot tell you how excited that makes me for those kids. They are getting a rich education, and discovering strengths they never knew that they had.
My Junior year English teacher at Mercy. (See a theme here?). Good ole Schuste. I had him first hour for Lit Into Film. I was terrified at first. He had a reputation of being tough- but also hilarious. I wasn't the kind of student that spoke up in class, and I was always worried he'd call on me out of the blue. But from day one of stepping my 16 year old self into that classroom, I was mesmorized. If Mrs. Courier gave me my love for writing, Schuste reinforced it. Talk about passion, he had more passion for English and writing than anyone I've ever met to this day. He was poetic, and had a beautiful unique view on the world that he willingly shared with us. I feel like being able to have him as a teacher is like being a member of a secret club. If you've sat in his classroom you know that I'm talking about- we were spoiled with knowledge. That class was special. We learned techniques, themes, skills, and lessons that I would have never known otherwise. In a way I think I grew up a little bit in that class. It hit me, after the class was over, that we had the ability, the opportunity, to live our life the way we wanted. When I went away to college and had my freshman English class, I was amazed by my classmates and their lack of basic writing skills. Not only did I get that as a young student, but it was pounded into our heads at Mercy. I thank Schuste for the opportunity to be a student in his classroom. He is retired now, but he continues to spread his wisdom through poetry.
So now that you know all about my love for English and writing, you can hear about my disgust for math. I hated math. I had it in my head that I wasn't good at math, and therefore didn't try very hard. I would pretty much hold my breath through all my math classes growing up, waiting for the bell to ring so that I could escape. In high school I suffered through, got c's, and rejoiced every spring when it was over and I didn't have to think about math all summer. I had Mrs. Kowalski twice, once freshmen year and then again senior year. I requested her senior year, and that's the year I remember better. I was one of the few seniors in my class, because I had started at the basic level in high school. Mrs. Kowalski understood me, probably more than any other teacher in high school did. She made me sit in the front row. She made me come in during my off hours to study or catch up on homework that I didn't understand. She paired me with a junior who understood it all. She constantly asked me to put problems on the board so that she could help me figure out where I went wrong. She scared me to death by telling me that I wasn't going to be able to be a Kairos leader if I didn't bring my grade up. She helped me to pass that class. In fact, I think I got higher than a C. She was honest with me, and she was rooting for me. As a senior I was mature enough to know that, even though it seemed like she was being a pain, she was doing her job. She was teaching. She is still teaching math at Mercy and I can pretty much guarantee that she is helping girls like me get by. Thank you, Mrs. Kowalski!
To all the other teachers that made a significant impact on my life, you are a hero, and I appreciate you: Mrs. MacLean (Miss Joyce), Mrs. Leahy, Mrs. Morrow, Miss Michalik, Mrs. Schrimsher, Madame Campbell, Miss Desmond (Sorry, you'll always be Miss Desmond to me!).
Go hug a teacher today.