The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius began his Meditations (Latin, English) with a list of the important people in his life and the lessons they had taught him. Teachers are often the most keenly mindful of their own teachers, for they not only taught us the particulars of various subjects, but inspired us to enter the profession of teaching. I can think of no better way to begin this blog than with a post reflecting on the master teachers in my life who have without question shaped the way I see education and go about the daily work of teaching. Perhaps my reflections will prompt fond memories in those who read them. If so, send a quick note to one or more of those special teachers in your life. If there is one given in education, it is that teachers love to hear from students.
My formal education began with Mrs. Anne Roberson, Kindergarten teacher at Grace Lutheran Church in New Albany, Indiana. I can still remember her classroom and the fun of learning there. Since our public schools did not have Kindergarten in those days, I entered the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corporation in first grade at Slate Run Elementary. My teacher was Mrs. Zelda Everbach, although I spent quite a bit of time in the class of Mrs. Maxine Dersch, as both teachers shared students for different subjects. Mrs. Everbach reminded me of one of my grandmothers and remained in close contact with my mother for many years. With Mrs. Dersch I encountered geo-boards, Digitor, and the rigors of first grade math.
Second grade introduced me to Mrs. Debbie Kimeck, who had been my mom's student when she taught fourth grade at Mt. Tabor Elementary. I remember well the special reading area she had set up in her room. It looked like a house, and we could go in, sit down on a rug, and read or have someone read to us. It was always fun having my mom come to our class as a reading aide!
In third grade I had Mrs. Marcia Austin as my teacher, and a more cheerful person you were not likely to meet. Not only did she boast a mile-wide smile, but yellow smiley faces adorned her room. We all like that she drove a small, silver sports car that she nicknamed "King Kong's roller skate!"
Mr. Donald Dewey was my fourth grade teacher, and it was there that I was introduced to Indiana history and the honorable challenge of learning. He told us we would be learning to work with algebraic equations, something that in times past had been reserved for high school students. I still remember the excitement and pride that came with the thought of learning something so advanced.
My fifth grade teacher was Mr. Neal "Corky" Lang, and he introduced us to the concept of writing down our assignments in an assignment book. So impressed was I with his neat, organized, and methodical way of teaching that I began a list that year of things I wanted to do when I became a teacher.
Sixth grade was my last year of elementary school, and Mr. Irvin Goldstein gave us the best possible preparation for junior high. I could write forever about the things we did in his classroom, from making pickles and root beer and stained glass windows to being challenged with a bonus list of vocabulary words, the first nine of which I still remember (vague, sham, redundant, verbose, articulate, gregarious, mediocre, magnificent, loquacious). Most significantly for me, Mr. Goldstein gave us many creative writing assignments. To this day I have not stopped writing both fiction and non-fiction.
My teachers at Slate Run set me off on a most wonderful path of discovery. I learned from them the fundamentals of reading and writing as well as the study skills necessary for success in any kind of learning. I also found in them models of teaching. Having taught in many different environments and at levels from middle school through undergraduate, I can honestly and proudly say that my elementary foundation was superlative. I would not change a thing.