Thankful for the teacher next door

Travel EVA

Education
Top – Ginger McRae.   Second Row, left to right – Marsha Barker, Patricia Hudson, Cheri Hayes.  Front, left to right – Heather Knapp, Jessica Kenny, Erica Macey
Top – Ginger McRae. Second Row, left to right – Marsha Barker, Patricia Hudson, Cheri Hayes. Front, left to right – Heather Knapp, Jessica Kenny, Erica Macey

Thankful for the teacher next door

by: Cheri A. Hayes, Ed.S | .
Shirley Lanham ES | .
published: November 22, 2016

All teachers have that great teacher next door, down the hall, across campus, or somewhere, that has contributed to their success as an educator. This is not a profession where you can honestly say, “I did it all by myself!”

Most teachers share their best tricks of the trade and ask nothing in return. Some spend countless hours after school and on weekends preparing detailed lesson plans with engaging activities. And many are more than happy to share those with their fellow teachers.

Yes, there are some teachers who just depend on other teachers to do the work and they just take. However, this still does not deter the teacher next door from sharing.

The teacher next door is the unsung hero of students they have never met and teachers they have helped polish strategies, implement best practices and support advancement in the field.

Sometimes, many of these teachers do not even know how they have impacted a teacher’s career. So I decided that as the season of giving is here, what a great time to share some stories about how the teacher next door helped mold us into the educators we are today.


I’m thankful for:
Ginger McRae, Marsha Barker, Patricia Hudson, Heather Knapp, Erica Macey, and Jessica Kenny
Diamond ES (Fort Stewart, GA)

I became a great teacher because all these ladies had an open door policy that made any new team member feel welcomed and a part of the team. No matter how full their plate was or how bad their day seemed to be, they were always willing to help, share and advise. Their lesson plans, were my lesson plans. Their workstations were my workstations. Their ideas were shared. Their opinions were voiced. It wasn’t always a bed of roses, but it worked. They kept no secrets to success. If any one of them had a concept that would propel student achievement, they did not keep it for their students only; they made it a grade level effort! For this reason, I have become a great “sharing” teacher, too. Thank you for making my DDESS years so awesome, ladies!

Cheri Hayes,
Shirley Lanham Elementary School


I’m thankful for:
Peggye Wilson, Shirley Lanham Elementary School

I feel like I became a better teacher because of the unwavering support from my supervisor, Peggye Wilson. Mrs. Wilson welcomed me with open arms to Japan and my first experience teaching elementary school DODEA students. She believed in me, encouraged me, praised me and gave me advice - both personal and professional - any and every time I needed it. I feel so blessed to know her and to have her as my supervisor as she continues to help me grow emotionally and professionally.

Hoai My Winder,
Shirley Lanham Elementary School


I’m thankful for:
Danielle Skinner and Carol Isakson, Patrick Henry Elementary (Vicenza and England)

I became a better teacher because these two wonderful women shared their joy of teaching with me and my fellow student teacher. We learned that some days you need to have a parade, and that those fun days can be more impactful than all the “serious” learning.  I learned to “let go of the balloon” and not let problems get to me, but to just continue working for the students. These wonderful ladies made school fun for themselves and the students each and every day, while still managing to meet each child where they were at. I strive to remember their example and be the teachers they are.

Cheryl Windham,
Sullivans Elementary School


I’m thankful for:
2nd grade team of teachers, Ikego Elementary School (Zushi, Japan)

Have you ever had the gift of working with a fantastic team of teachers? One that just worked, and worked well together?  Well, I have had the absolute gift of working with just such a group of educators. What was special about that group, or different from the rest you might ask? Well, everyone in the group was willing to share absolutely any and all resources, and everyone was willing to openly and gratefully receive them, too.  The team communicated regularly in a positive manner, and everyone on the team was willing to work beyond the duty day to do whatever needed to be done. No one was the teacher in charge of the team. There was simply a POC which allowed the flow of communication to take place, and the POC rotated within the group so everyone got a chance to contribute in that manner, no matter how few or how many years of experience they had in the system.  The team met regularly and didn’t use the time to gripe or complain. Instead, the team used the time to quickly review any pressing business, and then the rest of the time was for collaborating, sharing ideas and learning from each other so we could all grow as educators together.  Everyone agreed to leave personal issues at the door, but at the same time everyone in the group was willing to jump in and help in an emergency, no matter how big or small. I will never forget how I felt that year. I felt special as did everyone else on the team, because all members of the team treated everyone like they were just that – special ... awesome ... outstandingly hard-working professionals!  Thank you to that very uniquely talented group of teachers. You made that year an amazing one that created so many positive memories ... not just for me, but also for the all the kids we had the pleasure to serve.

Dawn Daley,
Sullivans Elementary School


I’m thankful for:  
Jeff Peterson, Retired

Jeff is actually a teacher I never met. I arrived at E C Killin Elementary over a year ago and he had recently retired. I walked into a music classroom that was a  dream come true. Jeff had been in the classroom teaching music for over 20 years. The music classroom was a treasure awaiting my discovery. Resources and music instruments were abundantly available.  I mostly appreciate his organizational skills, and seemingly, he knew that whoever followed him, would appreciate his dedication to music education at E C Killin. I was able to take advantage of the incredible range of resources and tools of the craft that I discovered. My success is largely a consequence of the teacher whom I never had the pleasure to meet.

Andre Elliott,
E C Killin Elementary School


I’m thankful for:
Mrs. Panameno, Ensign Elementary (Salt Lake City, UT)

I became a great teacher because Mrs. Panameno was so collaborative. She was willing to share her expertise and great ideas, as well as discuss things that didn’t work so well and how she planned to fix them. This made me comfortable enough to share my ideas and ask for help fixing the things that didn’t go so well for me!  We also shared the workload on activities we both did. I would make copies and prep activities for both of us and she would do the same for me. I discovered that this sharing saved time and enabled both me and my students to learn more!! Planning and collaborating together makes me a much better teacher and colleague.

Brenda Montoya,
Sullivans Elementary School


I’m thankful for:
Five Schools, at least 300 teachers, M. C. Perry Elementary School

I am a better teacher because of all the encounters experienced with teachers throughout the world. Teachers who shared ideas, thoughts, concepts and food.  Teachers who always asked the tough questions. Teachers who sit back and just do what they feel is right. Teachers who are vocal. Teachers who are quiet. Teachers that teach. Teachers that go through the day with a smile and a tear. Teachers, we do a lot.  It does get noticed even when we don’t think it should be or that it’s not anything extraordinary. Teachers, it is! It’s what makes us who we are. Teachers, I thank you for being you!

Anna Prindle,
M. C. Perry Elementary School


I’m thankful for:
ALL of my K - 4th grade elementary school teachers, Claremont Elementary School (Arlington, VA)

I can’t say that I’m a great teacher, but I do love my job. I only have fond memories of my elementary school days. All my teachers were special in their own way. They were entertaining, interesting and caring. They cared about our learning as well as our personal growth. The teachers would always have time to chat with us during recess, and there was always the feeling that you could go to them if you needed to talk. These are simple memories, but they are the ones that made me want to be a teacher.

Mary Fernandez,
Arnn Elementary School


I’m thankful for:
Michelle Tate, Bechtel Elementary School

Although I was confident teaching secondary students for my entire career, I was given the opportunity to return to Okinawa from Europe and teach 5th Grade at Bechtel Elementary for two years. During this time, my team leader, Michelle Tate, taught me everything from the required testing process each quarter to documenting a student for an SIS. Further, she showed me the ropes for teaching younger students in a technology-filled world! She was brilliant, yet if she did not know something, she researched it and shared the information with me. Her positive nature as a leader helped me be a much better teacher for my elementary students. Even though she had only been teaching a few years, she was one of the most dedicated, talented and tech savvy teachers I had the opportunity to learn from as a new elementary teacher. I would not be the secondary science teacher I am today without all the skills, valid websites and technology “centers” that I learned from my team leader, Michelle Tate.

Maryanne Tirinnanzi,
Lester Middle School


I’m thankful for:  
Karen Luckenbaugh, Retired

I became a great teacher because Karen is a leader who loved children. She was an enthusiastic teacher who always put her students first. She was passionate about education and learning. She shared her gift with others. She did not hoard information, passing along her successes and made mention of areas she could improve. She was a leader and her classroom at Kadena Middle School, room 142, misses her dearly.  

Allyson Snowden,
Lester Middle School


I’m thankful for:
Mr. Keith Thibodeaux, Patterson Jr. High School (Patterson, LA)

I became a great teacher because I fell under the guidance of an excellent principal who took me in and paired me with his best teachers of 20+ years of experience each. He allowed me time (sometimes a full day) to observe these teachers and discuss best practices with them. I noticed that although we taught the same students, they were getting much more productive behavior and achievement from them.  In my heart, I knew I needed my classroom to look and sound like theirs if I was going to achieve success. Mr. Thibodeaux often visited my classroom to ensure I was on track and to make his presence known to students, in support of my efforts. At first, his visits made me nervous, but eventually it made me stay on top of my game until I started to expect that consistency from myself. Mr. Thibodeaux left our school to become Assistant Superintendent of that school district and recently retired. Several of us who taught under him went on to become teachers of the year at various schools. One even became principal of the year. It was clear that Mr. Thibodeaux had groomed us to be the best in our professions. He had nurtured and developed our tenacity and work ethic to a pristine level. He had shared stories of his failures and successes in his early days of teaching which made me feel like he understood my passion for educational success. In faculty meetings, he had shared his vision for our school’s success, including collegiality amongst the staff. Everyone knew his expectations and rose to meet them. We were saddened when rumors surfaced that he might be getting a district position and we were impacted when things came to fruition. But, Mr. Thibodeaux had left a legacy in our hearts that went out into our continuing careers to impact so many more students around the world. Thank you Mr. Keith Thibodeaux, you made such a difference when you touched the lives of many students, teachers and administrators.

Estell Darby,
Yokosuka Middle School


I’m thankful for:
Buford Hicks, C. A. Gray Middle School (Moultrie, GA)

I became a teacher when I returned to the U.S. from England to be with my father who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. I was just getting ready to go to the University in England for a MA program in Shakespeare studies in Stratford-upon-Avon. When I got home, I needed a job, so I went for an interview at C. A. Gray Middle school in Moultrie, GA. There I met a wonderful man, Principal Buford Hicks. He interviewed me at great length, and I then took a job as a probationary teacher who had two years to meet Georgia requirements in Education for a state certificate. After one year of teaching English, I was asked to create an “alternative” class and curriculum for at-risk students (not special education). I was given free rein to do whatever I wanted and had great funding. It was the most wonderful growth experience I ever had, and the absolutely most fulfilling teaching time of my life. I truly felt as if I could teach out of the box and involve community agencies - anything to make my students taste success probably for the first time, and know that they would have options and a future if they worked hard. That year I was selected county teacher of the year. But that was not important, just an accident of fate, timing and place. Since those days, I have worked as a principal, curriculum specialist, and now again a teacher, but nothing ever has been able to quite match those magical first years that hooked me into this great profession.

Keith Henson,
Seoul American High School


I’m thankful for:
Jane Schneider, Amelia Earhart Intermediate School

I became a great teacher because watching Jane in action always made me want to do more, be better and aim higher. Jane is one of those teachers who is so high energy that she puts the Energizer Bunny to shame. She makes every student in her classroom feel as if he/she is the most important child in her classroom, while making differentiated instruction look easy. She sets high expectations for her students and they work hard to achieve and even exceed those expectations because they want so badly to please her.

Everything she does is for the good of the students and the school, and she is always willing to work cooperatively and share her ideas with others. The years we had the opportunity to co-teach were some of the best in my teaching career because I learned so much from her. I thank her for her continuing positive attitude, motivation and friendship!  Even though we no longer teach at the same school (or even in the same district), we continue to communicate and share ideas about our current teaching practices. Jane is truly one-of-a kind and I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to have worked with her and to continue to have her influence in my life.  Thank you, Jane!

Jackie Weizer,
Andersen Elementary School


I’m thankful for:
Joe Silbaugh, Osan American High School

If I should be considered to be a great teacher, then half the credit needs to be given to Joe. Joe was teaching Honors 10 English and social studies while I was regular History and English 10 at Osan. We soon began working together and aligning the curriculum so that my students were doing much the same as the Honors program. Working with him allowed me to try new things. Things that he’d worked out many out many of the tweaks. We shared rubrics and teaching strategies and I was able to raise the level of rigor with his support. He was also there when I began teaching Honors 10 English and social studies on my own at Humphreys High School and picked up AP U.S. History. He never hesitated to share materials and offer guidance. He still is such a valuable resource for me. Seven years later, we bounce ideas off of each other, share materials and sometimes just offer each other support. He is a wealth of knowledge and now also a good friend.

Michelle Mundy,
Humphrey High School


I’m thankful for:
Jenny Cheung and Hazel Specht, Bob Hope Elementary School

These two teachers were the best people in the world to work with. We collaborated on so many things during the six years we worked together. We became so close that they were my family... I was even in the delivery room for the birth of Jenny’s daughter. My favorite aspect of both of their personalities was that they were always great listeners and never judged when there was a different opinion voiced. This made a great work environment because teaching is my second career and I’ve always approached education from a different point of view because my degree is not in education.

Adam Johnston,
Kinser Elementary School


I’m thankful for:
Jerry Grover, Seoul American Elementary School

My transition to SAES and teaching and living on an Army post was successful and less frantic than most PCS moves because of Mr. Grover. As a teacher for over 20 years and a Navy spouse for over 25 years, I’ve moved 11 times. I’ve had both good and bad experiences when leaving an old teaching assignment to go to a new one (sometimes public sometimes DoDEA) … I could write a book about it. Just as students struggle with so many new procedures, people and school routines, so have I. But what I can say is that Mr. Grover has made this the best move, new classroom and school experience I have had in years. From the very start, he has had a cooperative and collegiate open door policy that provides support every teacher needs. No matter how full his plate (teaching, union rep or grade level tech-go-to hero) or how bad his day seemed to be, he was always willing to help, share his classroom supplies and give lesson instruction or student advise. His lesson plans were my lesson plans. His SmartBoard activities were our (the grade levels) SmartBoard. He would always happily share his ideas, educational practices and voice his concerns with new learning processes or data collection means. He kept nothing to himself. If he had a concept that would propel student achievement, he did not keep it for his students only; he made it a grade level effort!  He would immediately type or scan, make a pdf file and put it in the shared drive for everyone to use. For this reason, I have become a great source of “sharing” to other teachers, too. Thank you for making my Army post teaching experience super awesome!

Marian Leverette,
Seoul American Elementary School


I’m thankful for:
Cecilia Goetz, Our Lady of Perpetual Help ES (Rapid City, SD)

I became a great teacher because of the teaching of my 6th-grade teacher,
Mrs. Cecilia Goetz. Her expectations were high; we learned to outline our history and geography chapters, to diagram sentences, to solve thought problems showing all of our work, to spell our social study personages. She loved science and the Geophysical Year. Best of all, she taught half of the class art while the other half was at PE.

Mary Deschamp,
Sasebo Elementary School


I’m thankful for:
Jim Mathisen, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (Parkland, FL)

Just meeting and knowing this man made me a better person, which transitioned into the classroom with both teaching and coaching. Besides an amazing story I witnessed him experience first-hand, his methods as a professional were second to none. Jim was widely known and highly respected, not just in Broward County, but the whole state of Florida.

He was an educator that truly cared about people!  No matter who you were, you always started with a clean slate with him. I have seen him give troubled kids a chance, and I can’t recall one of them letting him down. He changed their lives around.

He was strict and very much a disciplinarian, but always fair.  That’s what made him so great and respected, because even the students knew this. If they were ever disciplined, they knew without a doubt that it was their fault and had no one else to blame. What also made him great is how consistent he was with his philosophies, beliefs, rules and policies. He was known not to alter, bend or break them no matter who you were. Not even for a 3-year starting QB on his football team.

The one experience that solidified Jim as one of the best, is when I saw him go through bone marrow transplants after being diagnosed with Leukemia at the age of 55ish …  Not only did he come back after that summer, he continued to teach and coach full time not missing a beat. I remember the whole team, all the players, witnessed me taping tubes that had to be constantly stuck into him for transfusion of fluids… Not only was I in shock doing it, but I could see the reactions of the students and even the other coaches while this was happening.  This solidified a lot of the many educational values he taught us all about life in general.

From early on when I met Jim, I knew I had a great opportunity to learn and consume as much knowledge I could about dealing with young people. And I did just that, and continue follow a lot of his philosophies and policies to this day. I can honestly say I had and continue to have a pretty successful and very satisfying career in education.  From my first year to now, I can honestly say having the opportunity to know him and work alongside him for 12-plus years helped mold me into the professional I am today…

Dean Florio,
Seoul American High School


I’m thankful for:
Stephanie Bullard, Sollars Elementary School

I became a better teacher because Stephanie was willing to share do’s and don’ts of the trade. Coming from another country was already difficult, but having a different protocol to follow made it a bigger challenge. Stephanie also assisted me with getting to know my team members as well as other staff members. She shared teaching tips, discipline ideas and lesson ideas. She has made my life and career worthwhile this year. Hats are off to her for being a willing vessel.

Lahoma Hendrix,
Sollars Elementary School


I’m thankful for:
Mr. G. Thurstenson, Geneva High School (Geneva, IL)

Teaching for me is a second career. After 10 years of frustration in broadcast journalism, I came to the wacky world of education. Mostly, because I have always remembered how my sophomore year English teacher inspired me. I remember Mr. Thurstenson as clear as if I were sitting in his class today. He always wore brown and he had this delectable Bostonian accent. He loved literature, and his love was passed on to his students as he slowly turned the pages of the Norton Anthology. And so it was that I, a terrible student up to this time, somehow by the grace of divine forces, found myself in Mr. Thurstenson honors English class. I still have no idea how that even happened. I remember one day we were studying R. W. Emerson, and Mr. Thurstenson asked me to read a portion from “Self Reliance,” I was a self-conscious kid who hated reading in class. I don’t remember the question he asked me about the reading, however, I will never forget his response. He looked me straight in the eye and said,  “Ms. Runyon that was a wonderful response. One day you are going to make a wonderful college student with a thoughtful response like that.” It was a moment for me.  It was as if a light bulb went on over my head. Me, a great college student, could it be?! Me!  I had grown up in a family were education was highly praised and thought of.

I was going to college, this I knew, but up to this point it never really occurred to me that I wanted to be a college student or that I could be a successful one. From that moment on, the seed of destiny was planted. I will always be grateful to Mr. Thurstenson who helped me see the light with just a simple note of encouragement. You never know what your words can do.  

Tiffany Runyon,
Yokosuka Middle School


I’m thankful for:
Ina Ramos, Daegu Elementary School

Mrs. Ramos and I became friends right from the get go. She taught 2nd grade while I was in 1st.  She gave me extension ideas for my high-level kids and always helped me feel like I was doing a great job for all of my students. When the year ended, I was able to move up to 2nd grade, where I was able to begin a new adventure teaching 2nd grade with her. We co-taught, created lesson plans together, bounced ideas off of each other (without fear of being shot down), laughed at each other when we made mistakes, and just had a great time teaching our students in a friendly- and family-oriented style.  She helped me see that being an open-minded teacher who shares and collaborates for the good of students, are amongst the best type of teachers. I learned a lot that year and will forever be grateful for her mentorship and friendship.

Sara Wood,
Seoul American Elementary School


I’m thankful for:
Katie Straub, Bechtel Elementary School

Katie is quite literally the teacher next door. I am surprised that there is not an indentation in the hallway leading from my door to her door, as I walk over to her room several times a day. Any children’s book that you need - she has it!  Any supply or tool that you want - she has it!  Need advice on what to do for a child with special needs - not only does she have the guidance, she has fun tools to help you handle the challenging behaviors.  Katie is the nurturing mother of our grade level.  Always ready to help, always ready to give advice, always using her thirty years of education experience to mold and support new teachers who just need someone who has been there and done that to assist.  This year, I am the FRS and she is my FR.  I look to her as a mentor. Someone who can show me the right direction to go in, who knows when it is time to change direction, or just to stop.  Katie is the glue holding our grade level together making us a cohesive unit.  We truly love her!

Thank you, Katie, from the entire 2nd grade team!  

Heather Dutchin,
Bechtel Elementary School


I’m thankful for:
Rebecca Garza, Ruben Chavira Elementary School (Del Rio, TX)

My aunt, Rebecca Garza, inspired me as a young child and inspires me, still, with her passion for teaching! She will soon be retiring after nearly 40 years of touching the lives of her elementary aged children and their families. I am very proud of her!

As a child, I spent many summers helping her set up her classroom and prepare for students. I listened to stories of triumphs and failures and watched as she thought of ways to improve her craft. At times, I watched her tears of happiness ... and, at times, I listened through her tears of frustration. This career is not an easy one to navigate, but she has always handled herself with grace and kindness. Her students and their families always praise her patience and persistence and knowledge of young children’s development - that is a true testament that many have been blessed to travel through her 40-year career! I love my aunt; she, along with my parents, has been the foundation upon which I have built my beliefs about teaching children and developing their minds and their hearts. She is the foundation of my own 20-year teaching career!

Sonia Benavides Whitecrane,
Bob Hope Elementary School


I’m thankful for:
Joe Ryan and Frankie Thompson, DDESS

I started out as a teacher assistant. My third year I started working with a great teacher.  Joe Ryan encouraged his students, and when he realized I was taking classes to get my teaching certificate, he supported me through some tough times.  He helped me like I was one of his students that he really wanted to succeed.  He stayed after school to help me with classwork. During the day, Mr. Ryan showed me how to write lesson plans, and work with various students that had “special learning” needs. I became a good teacher because he led by example. Mr. Ryan was truly an inspiration to me.  After teaching for several years, I transitioned into the position of special education assessor. The school psychologist, Mrs. Frankie Thompson was always there when I had a question. She always encouraged me by making me answer my own questions.  She knew it was in me more than I knew it was there.  She never doubted me, and always supported me. Most of all, when I was wrong, she was the first person to show me why by saying something, like, “Oh I see what you did or I see how you’re considering that,” then she would point me in the right direction, but I had to “fix it.” Today, these two people are still in my life. Joe Ryan is now a Professor at Clemson University, teaching other special education students to become great teachers, and still available to answer my questions or direct me when I have concerns. Mrs. Frankie Thompson is still our school psychologist, who I continuously consult when I have concerns about a student.  In all these years, they have never turned me away when I have a question/concern.

Johnnie Sledge,
Kessler Elementary School


I’m thankful for:
Drew Cornett, Sasebo Elementary School

Mr. Cornett is an amazing man.  As the complex ET, he was wicked smart about all things technology, but I learned to appreciate him even more for how he dealt with people.  Although everyone held him in the highest of regards, no one was more humble.  He always said, “We’re here to serve,” and he lived that statement, helping all with unlimited patience. I would come to him for a variety of reasons, and I was always struck by how he always helped to guide me to do the right thing. For Drew, it was always about what was best for the kids.  Even if I had a personal problem with another teacher, he would remind me of how different options would play out for the kids. As long as we keep in mind what is best for the kids, we end up doing the right thing. By example, and by gentle coaching, he taught me that, and I am forever grateful.

Kevin McGrath,
E.J. King High School


I’m thankful for:
Cynthia Parker, Retired

I owe so much to one particular teacher who I was lucky enough to work with for over 15 years. Mrs. Cynthia Parker taught me so much about how to be the best teacher I can be, especially for Special Education students. Mrs. Parker is a brilliant communicator, who had the unique skill of bringing people together for the benefit of a child. She retired last year and although she definitely earned her time off with her family, we sure do miss her.

Marnie Albertson,
Brewster Middle School


I’m thankful for:
Duval County Public Schools - Professional Development Dept Duval County Public Schools (Jacksonville, FL)

I became a great teacher because of working in at-risk schools and the on-going professional development that was offered to teachers (mandatory and voluntary) from school districts. The training received at at-risk schools equipped me with the bag of strategies I have for classroom management and difficult-to-reach students. Florida and Georgia school districts where I worked spent a great deal of money providing teachers with training because the desire is to use the knowledge and skills learned to better help the students. Kansas provided PD on professional learning communities and it was in Phase 2 when I was there and it works - the collaboration made life easier for all and we grew personally and professionally because of them. Some of the things that I learned from Florida in 1999 and 2004 are things that Alabama, Georgia, and DODEA have been trying to implement the last 3-5 years. There are a few teachers that have positively impacted my career by sharing their wisdom, but not necessarily teaching strategies or lesson plans. However, the willingness for these individuals to share whatever I ask for, they would. Because I possess the knowledge and resources that I believe others could benefit from and children being academically successful is my ultimate goal, I share any and all resources, strategies, and advice.

Lashaunda Norman,
MC Perry High School


I’m thankful for:
Freda Zeh, Morehead City Elementary School

I became a great teacher because Ms. Zeh always made learning a hands-on active learning process. The classroom was always moving and exciting. I couldn’t wait to listen to our read alouds, (she let us sit on big pillows anywhere in the room and she used funny voices).  Math was always a game (in teams, I was never called out, I didn’t feel confident in math). She also had cartoon characters that she drew to represent all girls and boys (Fred and Fredricka). We were all the same, there were no differences.  Ms. Zeh taught me the importance of valuing diversity in learning and the importance of movement and student involvement in education. I know without her influence I would never have become the teacher I am today. I am friends with her today. I remind her often, now that she has been head of the University of North Carolina’s Extended Learning Education Department, among other Deans of Education’s at variouMargaret SchmidtchmidtUniversity’s in North Carolina (funny how that happened), that she was an innovator and an inspiration to many.

Kara Malphrus,
Elliot Elementary School


I’m thankful for:  
Margaret Schmidt, Acres Green Elementary School

I became a great teacher because her room was my room. When I came in for my student teaching it gave me the confidence to become a successful teacher. She embraced me and my ideas. She was supportive and encouraging. She trusted me completely from day one and let me know that.

Amber Ragsdale,
Galer Elementary School


I’m thankful for:
Linda Dapcevich, Juneau-Douglas High School (Juneau, Alaska)

I became a great high school teacher because the teacher across the hall, Ms. Dapcevich, was a role model for everyone at the school. Through her open door, I saw grace under pressure, a calm steadying influence in all situations. She would calmly and professionally reason with any student or staff member who took issue with her or her classroom policies. What’s amazing about this is that she never raised her voice; she didn’t need to. She commanded respect through her presence. Ms. Dapcevich modeled respectful listening and problem solving. After working with her for 13 years, she had become my mentor in every way.  She was a master teacher, having great content knowledge. But equally as important, she had courage and compassion. I hope when I am teaching, my students see a little bit of her in me.

Carol Jordan,
Bolden Elementary School


I’m thankful for:
Elizabeth Obringer, FCHS

The wall between Beth and my classrooms opens at FCHS, and we have observed each other “in action” many times. As a result, we have used each other’s teaching materials on several occasions. Her most recent input into a lesson I taught last month, October, 2016, reminds me that I need to be sensitive to students’ fears. After my class recently read an article that compared people’s obsessions with electronic devises to drug addictions, it was Beth who sent me a second article that contradicted the notion that technology can be addictive. The two articles read in tandem gave my students a better opportunity to form their own opinions based on double input. It also assuaged some of the fears that the first article stirred up, because after reading two articles, it became more obvious that it was the first writer’s assertion, that technology is addictive, is an opinion and not a fact. Although I do like to “hook” my high school students with a startling anchor statement, Beth and I agree that “fear” is not a helpful teaching tool!  Reading the two contradicting articles together deepened the level of critical thinking. The writing that resulted from this analysis was stronger. My students wove evidence from both articles together, thus creating a product that is superior to a more simplistic agree/disagree response, and was written from a place of deeper conviction. Although Beth has fewer than half my years of classroom experience, she brings a lovely balance to my instruction that I strive to keep in place thanks to her nudge.

Darilyn Sheck,
Campbell High School


I’m thankful for:
Pam Altom, Leesville Road Middle School

I became a great teacher because Mrs. Altom helped me to understand the need for maintaining perspective and balance. The wife of a southern Baptist preacher, she rarely, if ever, raised her voice or seem to get rattled by any situation. But she always managed to make her thoughts known and her feelings expressed. A veteran instructor of over 30-plus years, she’d say, “I’ve seen it all in education, most things at least twice.”  She helped me understand that even with the constantly changing nature of education and the often divergent interests of the various stakeholders, at its core, education is about equipping students with the skills necessary to live.  So whenever I feel stressed or discouraged or annoyed or questioning, I remember this fact and it brings me peace. I will love her until the day I die.

Jonathan T. Smith,
West Point Middle School


I’m thankful for:
Jesus Christ

I would like to tell you about the teacher who has had the most influence on my life. I came to know Him when I was about 10 years old and He has guided me through many tough problems in many years of schooling and teaching.

He was the teacher who encouraged me most when I considered dropping out of college. He provided me with the strength and perseverance to complete my degree and start teaching in Minnesota. It was He who was listening to me when I was about to lose hope on finding a new teaching job after I was laid off in 2012.  It was this teacher who helped support my family through 2 RIFs and 3 cross-country moves in 4 years. I learned a lot from Him about service and maintaining a positive outlook even when all those around you have given up. He even wrote an instruction manual which you can pick up at any bookstore or online.  Every chance I get I introduce Him to people who can benefit from His outstanding teaching methods. You may have even heard of him.

They call him Jesus Christ.

Have a BLESSED day.

Brian Johnson,
Fort Knox High School