Monday, April 30, 2012

Who's Your Best Teacher?

This year Teacher Appreciation Week is May 7-11.  The 8th is Teacher Appreciation Day.  This blog appears a week early so that you’ll have some time to appreciate those teachers in your lives that have made an impact.  The blog is fairly straightforward as I list the teachers in my life who touched my life in some way and why.  Not all of used the classroom to teach me.  To use today’s jargon, I give a big Shout Out! to each of them.  The fact that I even remember the names of few is a testimony to the fact that they taught something that is still of some importance to me decades later.

Don Heilman, 5th and 6th grade teacher.  He was a good teacher, but more importantly he taught me how to forgive others.  How?  He forgave me for pulling a practical joke on the entire class when I moved everyone’s desk stuff (that was when we stored stuff in actual desks) up one desk so that when my classmates sat down they all had someone else’s belongings. 

Wanda DeBra – Geography teacher in high school.  She understood how to engage a class and almost tricked us into learning by having us create maps of the countries in our textbooks.  We understood where they were and why they were important by being little cartographers. 

Harriet Lynch – Latin Teacher all through high school.  She taught me Latin, which is a language I use daily in reading and writing.  She inspired me to take three more years of Latin in college.  By the way, it’s not a dead language at all.  The roots still exist.  But Mrs. Lynch was also someone who really cared about students even though that may have been lost on kids (and teachers) who didn’t like her assertive nature, or Latin.

Tim Moore – Coach, physical education in high school.  He believed that I could do and be anything and wasn’t afraid to tell me so.

Don Lynn – Science teacher in high school.  I got my first and only F from him and so I learned humility.

Rosella Reynolds – Typing teacher in high school.  She taught me to type.  Do you have any idea how important that is?  I type 110 words a minute, which is so much better than using the hunt and peck method.

Anneliese von Oettingen – My ballet teacher.  I only took ballet for a few years, but she taught me I could move gracefully and remember dance routines.  Because of her, I love and appreciate the dance culture.

Barbara Mossman – My childhood piano teacher.  I took weekly piano lessons from her for so long that I can’t remember the dates.  Because of her I adore classical piano music.  Her lessons also taught me graceful competition, poise in a public setting, and how to beat Allan Stubbs in a piano recital (okay, so I still need to work on that graceful competition thing).

Kay Sturm – My adult piano teacher and mentor.  I took weekly piano lessons from her for five years as an adult – just for fun.  But in that time I also learned how to accept other people’s fragility.

Colonel Undercoffer – The summer of my life teacher and father of my best friend.  He taught me how to ride a horse in a variety of ways.  Hunter style; trick riding; ring riding; Roman riding; trail riding.  He also taught me how to use a bow and arrow.  The badminton lessons didn’t work out as well.  These lessons were only for a summer in high school, but it was a summer I’ll always remember.

Mr. Blum – My first creative writing teacher.   He taught me that I could make up stories and write them down.

Bill Moore – A mentor for a few years.  He taught me how to forgive myself.

Sister Margo Cain – A cowoker.  She taught me that not everything has to be done by Friday.

Julia Hawgood – Another mentor for a few years.  She taught me that life isn’t fair and never will be.  But she followed it up with the lesson that I can learn to live it with joy, happiness and acceptance.

Melanie Faith – A recent writing instructor.  She’s been teaching me the art of writing short essays and fiction in an economy of words.  Much of my shorter work is publishable because she taught me how to get it up to speed for that.  She believes in my dream and that I’m able to reach it.  She’s a dream supporter.

Margo Dill – A recent writing instructor.  Not only has she taught me the use of social media, she’s also taught me tenacity where my novel writing is concerned. Somehow, even in periods of self-doubt after a terrible writing week, her comments and suggestions pull me through.  She also supports my dream because she believes writing is a viable life choice.  Although she never lies about the challenge of such a choice, she does so with a great sense of humor.

Colette Ledford – One of my younger sisters.  She taught me to be unafraid of motherhood and that it can be faced with laughter.  She taught me to “get over myself” when I took it too seriously.  And even now, when we’re adults, she can step in and gently slap me across the face (figuratively) so I’m not hysterical when I bite off more than anyone can possibly do in one day.  She continues to teach me that perfection is over rated.

Jenny Stephancin – My youngest sister.  She taught me to look at myself objectively when I do a self-assessment.  She may not even know that except that we’re both so much alike it’s as if I’m looking in a mirror.  She has taught me that sometimes good enough is just that – good enough.  And that dog hair is an acceptable condition in my house.

Scott Cassell - My brother.  Dedication is his middle name and he has taught me that.

Winnie Renner – My aunt who passed of breast cancer long ago.  She taught me that I’m ornery and to accept it.  She also taught me that my family is my family and no matter what, they’ll be there for me.  She believed that someday I would figure that out.

Jean Cassell – My mother.  At first she taught me how to be the hostess with the mostest because I have no instinctive talents in that direction.  Then I learned to be my own person because of her.  I don’t know if that was her intention, but she taught it and I’m glad of it.

Sarah Coffey - My stepdaughter.  She teaches me the art of sacrifice, which she does each day in supporting her family.

Chris Helscher – My son.  He is in the process of teaching me balance.  I don’t know how he learned it because it wasn’t from me.  But he did.  As I watch him be balanced I try like crazy to emulate it.  I may never fully learn it, but I appreciate it and will continue to attempt it.

There are more teachers in my life, but these are the ones that come to mind today.  Who are some of yours and why?

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  1. Holly -- this is a terrific exercise. I have never really thought much about who are my life's teachers and mentors. I know there are many. Thank you for leading in this. I may follow suit (though I don't have a blog). Also -- I am honored to be on your short list. I continue to be dedicated to being your little brother. - Scott :)

    1. Thanks, Scott, for checking it out. I didn't realize when I started this how many people shaped me and then I started realizing how many more there still are. I found it to be uplifting for me when I did it. And thanks for being the brother - and joining in with our silly songs. Love, Big Sis

  2. Thank you so much for putting me in a list of amazing people. I am so glad that I have met you through my classes. You are a wonderful inspiration yourself--and I love how you appreciate everything about life. Thank you, Holly!

    1. You're most welcome, Margo. I'm so glad to know you.