Teachers' Influence Us throughout Our Lives
Byline: Beth Bales
It could be the teacher who unlocked the mysteries of multiplication or made calculus calculable.
It could be the one who provided direction to a youth searching for a path. It could simply have been a teacher or respected coach who listened and understood, when a sympathetic ear seemed to be lacking elsewhere.
American Education Week, established 77 years ago, begins today. The week's goal: to increase public understanding and appreciation of the nation's schools, to encourage parents and others to visit schools, and to build civic and community pride and support for education.
The week is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and 12 national organizations, among them the American Legion, the National Education Association and the National Parent-Teacher Association.
And as the week begins, with activities planned throughout the school district, it might behoove those of us whose school days are long past to think back and remember those teachers who made a difference in our lives.
Nancy Dantino remembers her fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Anderson, at St. Anne School in East Moline.
"I'll never forget how she walked around with a Ping-Pong paddle," Dantino said. She didn't strike children - well, OK, maybe a hand or two, Dantino said - but used the paddle to emphasize her points.
"She was a pleasant, bubbly lady, very nurturing," Dantino said. "I really learned discipline with my studies, and it's carried throughout my life.
"She was fun, but she expected the best out of us and she had a gift of getting it out of us."
Mrs. Anderson taught Dantino the finer points of grammar, including diagramming, the virtual death of which Dantino mourns. Also, Dantino emphasized, the teacher "didn't put up with any nonsense."
Dantino said these high expectations resulted in her working harder - and in forming a lifelong connection between expending effort and achieving results.
I consider myself fortunate to have had many outstanding teachers in my 13 years in the West Aurora School District, with several who influenced me in important ways.
Yet when I started reflecting on who, when and why, I kept returning to Mr. Reed, my sixth-grade language arts teacher, and a specific event: conferences on achievement test scores. He commented on the scores relevant to reading and writing, as well as a recently completed class writing assignment.
I don't remember his exact words, but the gist was: "You show some real ability in writing. I think this is something you could pursue."
I cannot tell you the enormous sense of affirmation I received from his words, so much so that they still resonate 30 years later. I loved reading, I loved writing. And here was a teacher - someone pretty high up on my respect and authority scale - telling me that yes, being a writer wasn't out of reach.
He helped point the way.
Chris and Jim Kautz both are products of our Geneva school system, and both had a hard time selecting just one teacher.
When I told her about my example, Chris Kautz, a nurse, recalled a well-liked nursing instructor.
"I told her I wanted to go into surgical nursing," Chris Kautz said. "She said, 'Oh no, Christine. You need to be with patients who are awake.' It was as if she saw a gift in me that would be wasted if I chose surgical nursing" (as opposed interact with conscious patients in need).
And did the teacher's recommendation matter to her?
"Oh definitely," Chris Kautz said. "It really made me think."
Her husband Jim, after spending the first half of a soccer game mulling his choice, was hesitant to voice his selection. "It's not a teacher," he said. …