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My Heroes, My Teachers
My First Grade Hero
When I was five years old, I began first grade at Luther Burbank Elementary School in Artesia, California. It was a scary experience for me. I was extremely shy and we had just moved to California from Arizona. I was younger than my classmates because I tested out of kindergarten. I also had a medical condition that caused me to wet my pants. And I stuttered. It was a tough beginning to the school year.
I was lucky, though. I had an experienced teacher that knew how to treat a student with all of these issues. And how to teach me. Mrs. Sealy was a miracle worker to me. When I was too shy to stand in front of the class to answer questions or give me reports, she gave me worksheets to complete instead. She would give me extra reading assignments, because she knew I loved to read. She bought extra clothes for me in case I had an accident at school. She was my hero and I knew then that I wanted to be just like her.
My Fifth Grade Hero
In fifth grade, I had a teacher named Mrs. Walker. She was an average teacher. Nothing really special about her. I learned some math and science and social studies from her. I remember very little from her because of just how average she was. But she did something really special – and important – for me. She allowed me to be in Mr. Wasinger’s reading group. And he was absolutely amazing.
Mr. Wasinger brought my love of reading and turned it into a passion. I read every book he recommended for me, and every book we used for book study. He taught writing, as well. He taught me to love Shel Silverstein and other wonderfully funny poets. He taught me to write poetry and, from him, my love for poetry grew. I loved writing it as much as I loved reading it. He read us the story Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. He read each character with such feeling that we all thought we were right in the middle of the Ozarks with Billy. And he cried at just the right moments. He was my hero and I knew that I wanted to be just like him.
My High School Hero
As a senior in high school, I was taking a college prep class for English. We read all of the classics that you read in high school. But we also read some new books. The Pigman’s Legacy by Paul Zindel was one of those books – which led me to read other books by Paul Zindel and just reaffirmed my love of reading. One of Mrs. Parker’s assignments was for us to read a series of books and give a report on the books and the author. It had to be at least a series of two books, but could be more. I reread The Little House on the Prairie series and did my report on that. I felt close to Laura Ingalls Wilder and felt we shared many adventures together. Mrs. Parker made me love English so much more than I ever did – and that was saying a lot.
She also talked to a shy, awkward teenager and made me feel that I was valuable. She wanted what was best for me and tried to encourage me to go to college. I felt like I had a chance, she made me feel like I did. Then I became pregnant. And she was there for me through that, as well. She was the first to tell me congratulations and made me feel that I wasn’t making a mistake. She made me feel that, although I could have waited, I would be a great mom and my child would be lucky to have me. She was my hero and I knew that I wanted to be just like her.
My Dream Came True
It took me awhile to fulfill my dream of becoming a teacher like my heroes. I had my baby and married her father. I stayed at home and took care of her for a little while, then worked for a little while. I even opened up my own daycare for a few years. I had a second baby. Then my husband lost his job and refused to find another one. The daycare wasn’t making us enough money to live on, so we applied for state assistance. We had many hoops to jump through to get our assistance, and many different caseworkers to help us to jump through them. My husband at the time thought it was ridiculous and refused to look for a job, or do any of the things we were asked to do. Ms. Davis was one of those workers.
She was loud and could be abrasive. She had an aura of authority that was hard to deny. She often lectured my then husband about all of the things he needed to be doing in order to provide for his family. He refused to do any of it. So then she began to work on me. She told me that since my husband wasn’t going to provide for the family, I would need to do it. She told me that she had faith in me. She introduced me to several part time jobs that I could do while my children were in school or with their grandparents. Then she gave me the best advice I ever had – go back to school, get a career instead of a job, and leave the worthless bum I was married to.
I listened to her. I went back to school and got my dream career. A few years later, I left the bum.
I Want To Be a Hero, Too
I began teaching special education in 1998. My first class was six fifth grade boys. One in particular was very shy and didn’t talk much. I summoned Mrs. Sealy in my mind and did for him what she had done for me. Encouraged him and made him feel important. Eased his way into reading. Offered a helping hand and a listening ear when needed. He soon blossomed.
Another student was a boy that hated to read. I read Where the Red Fern Grows to the class. He laughed when the time was right, and cried like a baby at just the right parts. He wanted to read the book on his own, so he sat with me for hours learning his letters and sounds. Finally, he was able to read the book on his own. I felt Mr. Wasinger watching over my shoulder and celebrating my success with me.
A few years later, I had a little girl that had been abused by her father and brothers. She needed someone to talk to and was afraid to talk to anyone. One day, she came to me. I thought of Mrs. Parker and what she would have done. I listened and made no comments until she needed me to comment. I was there for her to tell all of her problems to. I called child protective services for her and was there for her when they came to talk to her at school. And when they removed her from her abusive home.
Through the years, I have called upon my memories of my heroes. They were there for me when I needed them. They protected me when I needed that and pushed me when I needed to be pushed. They encouraged me through good times and through bad times. These teachers who made me who I am today. And I hope that I can be a hero to at least one of my students.