Teachers have been on my mind this week.
It began Monday evening at the annual Chamber of Commerce dinner. From this spectator’s perspective, the video on the three Educator of the Year honorees — Carla Alspaugh, Janelle Valenti and Chrystal Palmer — was the highlight of the evening, elevated to that top position in large part by the students’ comments, one of which was a trio of singers.
I’d often thought of our teachers this past year. I cannot imagine the enormous challenges, not the least of which were connecting with your students via e-learning and then what I perceive to be an odd mixture of some students in the classroom and the rest tuned in on their iPads.
Tuesday afternoon found me putting the Wednesday Opinion page together. The videos had also triggered some memories for Jessica Bricker, whose Wednesday column focused on her favorite high school teacher.
That got my wheels turning on recalling the teachers who had made a major impact on this young mind. I was not the most motivated student in high school, much to the consternation of my parents. I just didn’t see anything wrong with being average. Of course, like any good parents, they had higher hopes for me than being a C-student.
I don’t know what the polite term is in the home of a pastor and his family, but whatever it is, it hit the fan when I brought home a report card for one particular six-week grading period with an “F” in my Latin class. The fact that I got a “B” in English and an “A” in government class didn’t seem to matter.
“What good will Latin ever do me anyway?” I recall arguing. Which of course, didn’t get me anywhere.
I did get the grade out of the cellar — I had to if I wanted to go to any more Friday night dances at the Community Center — but a couple years later, my overall grade average barely qualified me for admission into Ball State. (I discovered some motivation there, I feel compelled to report.)
That “A” in government was due in large part to the teacher. Ron Bittner made learning about how our government works interesting, even fascinating. It didn’t hurt any that I was already quite a news hound, perusing the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel and the Decatur Daily Democrat every evening.
My only other “A” grades were in my speech and drama class and my journalism class, taught by Pat McCullough and John Butler respectively. I think I did OK in English, but pretty sure never better than a “B.”
I can recall names of other teachers that I survived. In hindsight I appreciate their efforts. At the time, not so much. Such is youth.
Teachers continued to pop up on my radar as the week progressed. We are beginning to work on our annual “Who We Are” edition and I am tackling an overview of how the schools dealt with the obvious challenges. I am beginning with some email conversations with principals and already there is a theme: their teachers’ dedication.
It is a foreign concept for us that many schools systems, typically in the large cities, have yet to have any in-person classes. Do we really appreciate what we have?
It’s not National Education Week or Teacher Appreciation Week, but so what. As a landmark school year winds down, if you run into a teacher, give them a fist bump or a high five or an elbow rub or whatever seems appropriate. It is well deserved.