Speakers with Spark: Unsung Heroes

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Susan Rider column

By Susan Rider

With another school year approaching an end, it’s appropriate to sing the praises of teachers, principals, coaches and others who give their time and talent to the youth of today.

Thank you. It’s not easy being a teacher who cares, when you have a child in your class you know has potential but comes from a family that either doesn’t care or doesn’t want the child to succeed.

It gets frustrating. Teachers sometimes do not realize the impact they have on a child for the rest of their lives. 

A teacher told me the story of a bright young girl who had so much potential. The mother was a waitress, the father a mechanic and they didn’t want their daughter to go to college for fear she would outgrow them. To think a parent doesn’t want the very best for their child seems foreign to most of us but unfortunately that way of thinking is more prevalent than you think.

Teachers need collaboration with parents to reinforce the learning, behavior and educational goals for each student. Parents run the gamut from ones who do not believe in any kind of discipline or involvement in their child’s education to the hovering overly protective ones who wear rose-colored glasses and believe their child is perfect. One teacher explained it always was refreshing to find a parent who had the right amount of involvement and reality to accept the challenges and failures of their child as learning opportunities.

When I was in high school, there were several teachers who greatly impacted my future.

One was Mrs. Lemaire, who with her gruff realism was committed to preparing her students for life. Her way of stating the obvious as matter of fact explaining things to you above and beyond the teachings in a book forever will be remembered by many.

One day after hearing a student say, “I can’t wait till I’m 18,” she said, “you’re wishing your life away, enjoy the moment for one day you’ll look back at this time and cherish the memories.”

One of my favorite teachers was a first business teacher, Henry Chitwood. He was committed to teaching the basics but more importantly to developing the confidence of his students and helping them recognize their talents.

There are teachers and then there are teachers who work hard at building excitement about learning and search for creative ideas on new techniques to share knowledge and keep students engaged. For instance, Bill Kinslow who was an eighth-grade teacher at Howevalley Elementary School. He was amazing. Even today, I remember the cheer he taught students in English to remember the auxiliary verbs; Is, are was, were, am, be, been, Wildcats, Wildcats win, win, win.

If your child has ever experienced a teacher who is less enthusiastic about the profession of teaching, it makes you even more grateful for teachers who have a passion for challenging students to be their best.

At a meeting recently, I met a man that had his PhD. He was telling me the story of when he was in high school, a student with ADHD, his teacher told him he shouldn’t go to college. He told the teacher he wanted to go to University of Miami, Ohio. The teacher said he went there and the student didn’t have what it took to graduate from that kind of school and he should go to a community college instead.

With determination, three masters later and a PhD the gentleman said, “teachers don’t always see the potential of students.” A very successful business man today he reflects on that time and the determination he had to prove this teacher wrong.

If you are in education be proud. Whether the part you play is homeschooling your own children, coaching a little league team, for there are many life’s lessons in sports or volunteering in a classroom, all energy and talent given to the development and the sharing of thoughts, ideas and teachings is a gift for which you play a special part.

We appreciate you and the work you do.

The tireless patience, the commitment to excellence and the perseverance to help every child is a gift you are giving to this world because you are forming the world of tomorrow. Thank you for the times you have dipped into your own pockets to invest in the children you influence. Thank you for your time in extracurricular activities many of which there is no financial reward. Thank you for all the extra meetings, the extra caring the worrying over the weekend, the preparation to make your class special. You are instrumental in developing and molding the minds of our future citizens. Thank you.

Susan Rider is a life coach and member of Speakers with Spark who lives in LaRue County. She can be reached with reader comments at susanrider@msn.com.