Monday, April 20, 2009

A Teacher Affects Eternity*

Carolyn Rosenberg was my first grade teacher. What do I remember? She was pleasingly plump, white haired, and at least 120 years old. Of course, in retrospect, she was probably still in her 50s, if that.

The rest is a pleasant blur. While I don’t remember any specific lessons, I’m fairly certain that she taught me to read. But what I recall with vivid clarity is that I felt safe. Mrs. Rosenberg made school a haven. In her classroom, nobody’s feelings ever got hurt; you never felt foolish, stupid, or silly. I loved being in her class. By the time I became a mother, I hoped that each of my kids would find a Mrs. Rosenberg in their school careers.

Our local school board just announced teacher layoffs – including several who have tenure. It’s yet another reflection that times are still tough (despite the glimmers of hope that are being touted). I shouldn’t be surprised, but of course, I am. Good teachers are the key to society’s future. They can be transformative. I still remember Miss Thompson, my eighth grade English teacher. She made me believe that I could be a writer. Her encouragement set me on a career path that may not always have been lucrative, but has always been fulfilling.

John F. Kennedy once said: Modern cynics and skeptics... see no harm in paying those to whom they entrust the minds of their children a smaller wage than is paid to those to whom they entrust the care of their plumbing.

Ain’t it the truth.

I’m the daughter of one of those great teachers. My mother taught high school business classes, and then switched to teaching adult education. Her work continued outside the classroom. She taught more than technical skills. She worked tirelessly to place each of her students and the rewards were more than a paycheck – for them and for her. She was building character and confidence. As Mastercard would tell you: Priceless.

I know that layoffs of teachers is probably inevitable. It's heartbreaking when they are good teachers. On the other hand, I can name a few teachers who should have been laid off years ago -- even if the economy were booming.

Please share your memories of teachers who made a difference in your life.

Evelyn David

*This quote is from educator Henry Brooks Adams, who was also a member of the political Adams family


  1. My first grade teacher, Jewel Nickles of Holdenville, Oklahoma, taught me to love books and school. My second grade teacher taught me that not all teachers are equally talented.

    aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David

  2. My high school social studies teacher, Mr. C. He was a real maverick--not too many of those in an all-girls Catholic school. He was the teacher who instead of calling me "Margaret" as I had been called since the first day of parochial school, said I looked more like a "Maggie" and started calling me that. It stuck. He was creative, innovative, loved his students, and was just fun to be around. He moderated our Model UN trips, and taught us more about the world--from our classroom, pre-Internet--than we would have learned anywhere else. I hope he's well and still thriving. Maggie

  3. My high school journalism teacher, Mrs. Samson had a bosom so large she folded her arms over her chest as if were a shelf. Many decades later I can still conjure up her image as she strode around the room like that, admonishing us to "keep it simple" when writing news - just the facts, not the editorializing you see in what often passes for journalism today. She instilled a passion for writing and for seeking the truth. I have tried to follow her advice in my nonfiction and fiction.She was a wonderful teacher.

  4. I can remember my grammar school teachers far better than any of the rest. Part of the reason may be because they are in home movies we have of my grammar school years. (They've been put on tape so they're easy to watch.)

    My grammar school days were great. In sixth grade I came down with rheumatic fever and my teacher, Mrs. Brown, came to my house once a week to bring me my work and help with anything I was having a problem with. She gave me all A's on my report card. No one paid her to do this, she was just a good teacher.

    She was about the same age as my mom and very pretty.

    I got well enough to go to my 6th grade graduation. My auntie made me a beautiful light green cape to wear over my new dress. Funny what you can remember.

    Marilyn a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

  5. My mother actually taught me to read well before I went to school and while all of my grade school teachers were outstanding Mrs. Clark stands out in my mind. I too thought that she was about 120 years old, but I'm sure that she wasn't. The grade school I went to was very small, 26 students in grades 1 - 6, sharing classrooms and Mrs. Clark had me to her farmhouse in the summer for a week every year for 4 years. We would read and walk through her orchards and go to grange meetings. She was an amazing woman and I just wish I had known to tell her that while I had the opportunity.

  6. Mrs. Murray, 8th grade, Creative Writing. Probably started me on the course that led to today. Upbeat, smiling, inspiring.

    Mr. Lamar, 10th grade American Lit and Comp, and Advanced Comp. Enthusiastic, talked to us like people, instilled a love of the written word. Invited me and my boyfriend to his Topanga Canyon home for a soft drink. Interesting guy.

    Many others, but these stand out.


  7. Ms. Brewer, in 5th grade, made learning fun. To this day it amazes me how she could crack jokes constantly while at the same time prepare us well academically. Normally the two don't go together!

    I found Mr. Williams, my 10th grade history teacher, kind of intimidating, but he really taught us how to go past memorization and truly understand what we were studying. The 3 C's - Cause, Course, Consequence. For every event we studied we had to be able to elaborate on those 3 things!

    And my all-time favorite, Mr. Burris. I was an obsessive kid who worked hard to get straight A's, but in Mr. B's AP history class he set the standards so high that he told us up front that he didn't give A's. You'd think that would be a turn-off, but it just made me work harder.

    There are so many others: Mrs. Swystin, Mrs. Wright, Mrs. McKnight... I could go on and on ad nauseum.