Our district held a reception for newly minted and research-sharing National Board Certified Teachers last week. I attended as a newly minted. Guests were congratulated and asked to recall a special teacher and share with tablemates what made that teacher so memorable. Great stories abounded. Each teacher mentioned seemed to have the ability to bring out the best in their students. A premise of the National Board for Teaching is effective teachers help students achieve no matter the challenge because they have high expectations for their students. The common thread woven through all our stories was in fact, the high expectation placed on us by those master teachers.
The teacher I remembered immediately- Virginia Hamilton (not the author) of Goodrich Jr. High School, Lincoln, Nebraska. I had her for 7th grade English. She was passionate about mythology. She wasn't chic like our mini-skirted Miss Adams, who was a runway model in the off-season. She wasn't hip and cool like Mr. H., our long-haired, liberal minded student teacher in social studies who let us call him Bruce and who was subsisting on $1.00 a day for food because he wanted to experience what people below the poverty level (this was 1969) were experiencing. She wasn't smart-alecky and witty like Miss Michaels our crazy art teacher. She was a little corny, middle-aged, suited, hairsprayed, had a high pitched voice, and had the nerve to insist we do our readings (yikes) no matter how archaic the language of the text (Beowulf...double yikes). She had the ability to light Olympic torches in our literature-feeble, middle school-aged brains. We read Beowulf and pictured Grendel, the great hall, and drank non-fermented mead. Just thinking it could be fermented was tantalizing. We read Greek and Roman mythology and learned about love, scandal, hubris and tragedy in the world of gods, goddesses, and humans. Tabloid news before tabloid news. We found that year in English class interesting, relevant, and unexpectedly fun. We rewarded Mrs. Hamilton's efforts by naming the mascot of our newly opened school, "The Olympians" in her honor. As she reminded us, Goodrich was perched on a hill (Mt. Olympus to us) called Belmont whose name had Latin/Roman origins. It's almost 40 years later and these images are fresh. Her lessons and passion are fresh.
As teachers it's not often we get feedback on our abilities from our biggest audience, our students. Here's your chance. Share your story about a great teacher who left you with indelible memories. Comment on!