I could almost count the number of teachers who really inspired me on one hand.
- 5th grade – Mrs. Leep. Made my rough transition to a new school district a little less bumpy. I knew she cared about me.
- 7th grade – Mr. Creech. Gym teacher. I hated gym, but he loved his job, loved his students, and treated us with respect. Great sense of humor.
- 7th/8th grade – Mr. Abitz. Incredibly gifted vocal music teacher who believed in me and invested in me as a person.
- 8th grade – Mr. Yoder. English. Inspiring energy, enthusiasm, and love both for his students and his job.
- 10th grade – Mrs. Hobart-Parks. American Lit. Passionate, enthusiastic, inspiring, amazing.
- 12th grade – Mr. Hardy. Advanced Creative Writing. Energy and enthusiasm off the scale. In class, that is. Very introverted outside the classroom, which constantly reminds me that I can be who I am and still leave an impact.
- Miss Bird, my high school vocal music teacher, goes into a special category. Though I never sensed a deep personal connection with her, she had a knack for creating intense feelings of community in her classes, and many of my closest friends today are friends I made in choir. In her 1st hour Show Choir class in 1985, I became good friends with Christy Weidman. This February Christy and I will celebrate our 22nd anniversary. Thank you, Miss Bird. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving…
- College – Dr. Wrobel. Testing and Assessment (Psychology). Energy and humor that helped me do well in a class I dreaded taking. Dr. Wrobel took a personal interest in me and helped me find my way.
- College – Dr. Frank. Personality Theory. When I found out I had MS in 1990, Dr. Frank said to me, "Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to get up every morning and say to yourself these three things – 1. It’s a beautiful day. 2. I’m going to do everything I want to do today. 3. I’m in control of all my muscles. You can still make your life what you want it to be." Know why I remember all three of those lines today? Because I chanted that mantra every day for a year.
Okay, not quite one hand. But not quite two either.
These were my giants – teachers who towered far above the rest, even above some who were fantastic in their own rite, excellent people, and skilled communicators of their subject matter. Still, these were my giants. Most of us have a few giants. Nearly all of us can recall teachers who deeply impacted our lives, and usually their impact had little or nothing to do with the subject they taught.
Teachers who leave an impact teach more than their subjects. They teach a way of living, or a way of being, or a way of loving others, or all of the above.
Three years ago my father retired after 40 years of teaching. He was/is a teacher who inspired and lifted others. My whole life has been punctuated with flashes of recognition. "You’re Dave Flowers? Mr. Flowers the teacher’s son? I had Mr. Flowers in school 30 years ago. He changed my life." Or, "Is your dad still teaching? One of my biggest regrets from school is that I didn’t get to have your dad as a teacher." My dad taught 5th and 6th grade. But I grew up knowing my dad did a lot more than teach 5th and 6th grade. My dad retired two years ago. Know what he’s doing now? Subbing. Some teachers teach 30 years, enjoy summers off, retire, and move to Florida. But some teach 30 years or more, retire, and find a job teaching part-time. Those are the teachers who teach not for a career, but for life — because teachers will find a way to teach.
My wife is currently in her sixth year of teaching. She is one of those teachers who does a lot more than teach. She inspires and lifts people. Her students will love her for life because of her faith in them. I teach at Spring Arbor University, and once a week in my church, and sometimes in my counseling office. It is a privilege to be able to impact the lives of others, and I know that I will teach in one way or another for the rest of my life.
Who are the teachers that impacted your life? What would you say to them if you had a chance to thank them?