In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, I’m dedicating today’s post to the amazing women and men who have so impacted my life. Earlier this week, I was able to attend the funeral of my beloved first grade teacher, Mrs. Helen Reynolds. Growing up the daughter of the school superintendent had it’s perks; Namely, I was more often than not placed in the classrooms of some amazing teachers. At Mrs. Reynold’s funeral the pastor noted how many people can only name 1 or 2 teachers from their formative years. Me? I think I can name them all! Mostly, I can recall exactly what they taught me and the impression they had on me. Here are a few who particularly stand out to me. Please share in the comments some of your favorites too! And THANK YOU to all the teachers who work so hard to make the lives of young people better!!
Mrs. Reynolds-Grade 1
Mrs. Reynolds was the first grade teacher everyone should have. She was warm, nurturing, and had a genuine concern for the well-being of each of us. She was quick to offer a smile or a hug and always took the time to sit with us individually and give us the one-on-one attention we needed. I think what stands out to me the most is that she invited us into her life. That is something that is missing these days. She lived on a farm and I remember stopping by on the weekends to buy fresh eggs. It truly was an idyllic introduction to the start of formal education.
Mrs. Watson-Grade 2
Not many kids get to experience second grade in an old schoolhouse, away from the rest of the school! Grade 2 in Atkinson was held at the Rockwell School, a 3-room schoolhouse that has since been transformed into the police station. We were isolated from the rest of grades 1-5, but in the best way! We walked up the road for our specialists and had a magical year with Mrs. Kathy Watson. Two things stand out to me when I think of her. The first being her true passion for teaching. I remember her saying to me once how teaching was a calling, not just a job. And she embodied that calling. Secondly, I recall POETRY! Mrs. Watson exposed us to all the poems in the world and encouraged us to write and read extensively. I owe my love of reading to her and am so grateful for the example she set. She made us love school! As Maurice Sendak said “Each month is gay, each season nice. When eating chicken soup with rice!”
Mrs. Earley-Grade 6 Science
Mrs. Earley was so passionate about science and I recall her class being very hands-on. As a scared 6th grader entering the middle school for the first time, Mrs. Earley was that warm presence that I craved. She loved animals and often shared stories of her beloved bulldog, Lutha, who she spoonfed! She taught us about blood types, how to dissect a frog, and about venus fly traps. Beyond the classroom, Mrs. Earley always supported me in other areas as well. She was quick to ask how a field hockey game had gone or what I had planned over the weekend. Her genuine interest in me as a person, not just a student, stands out to me still.
Mrs. Connolly-High School Field Hockey Coach
A few times in my adult life, I’ve experienced renewed respect for adults from my past. This is especially true of Mrs. Patty Connolly. She gave up so much of her time to coach our field hockey team and only now do I fully understand that commitment. Day in and day out, she encouraged us to be better players and better people. She called us out when she knew we weren’t giving it our all and praised us when we were. I still remember her yelling “Don’t cut corners!” as we ran lap after lap. She invited us into her home for team dinners and facilitated an atmosphere that encouraged teamwork, fair play, and a positive attitude. The lessons she taught us in big wins and devastating losses alike still resonate with me today.
Mr. Chooljian-High School Guidance Counselor
Mr. Chooljian was a huge part of my high school experience. He was steadfast in his dedication to making sure I made the best choices, whether it be in course selection or choice of college. He was a listening ear and gentle hand in guiding me through what can be a very overwhelming process. The thing that I recall best, however, was his enthusiasm. He really wanted me to do well, in school and in life. He gets a lot of recognition for his role as head wrestling coach at Timberlane, but I’ll remember how he supported and encouraged me in my academic life.
Having taken the time to sit and reflect on these amazing people, two things stand out to me. First, all of them loved what they did. They had a passion for working with young people and it showed. Secondly, they all took an interest in their students beyond the classroom. They got to know us and supported us in every area, not just as students in their class. Thank you all for being wonderful role models and for making my life so much richer!
You are a wonderful writer, and you should be able to reach an even wider audience. This is a lovely piece.
I’m thankful for Mr. Chooljian, too, for not talking you out of going to NC State!
This brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing!
Someday I shall write a book on the adventures of 2nd grade at the Rockwell. You would be in so many of the stories. I think at least you and Debbie Leary Marino and myself should try for a mini reunion! Thank you for sharing your writing gift on this blog. I am so grateful to enjoy you this way.
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