Perhaps it's cliche to reiterate the importance of saying 'thank you' on Thanksgiving, but how can I not write on this topic when my blog is titled "Dear Students, Thank You"? (Even if I have mindfully procrastinated my entries for the last two months!) Obviously, I am thankful for being an educator as my students inspire me each and every day. I am nothing short of lucky to wake up each day and look forward to going to work. I have long known that I wanted to be an educator, but to be honest I have not reflected (let alone thanked anyone recently) on the process that gave me my opportunity to teach today. Reflection is equally important to offering thanks because without reflection we haven't truly comprehended our gratitude. I want to take a couple of moments to reflect, as both a student and a teacher, and thank those who gave me the opportunity that I have today.
I first knew I wanted to become a teacher when my first grade teacher, Zorina Mohammed, opened up a can of Coca-Cola during class while teaching me 2nd grade math. "How awesome!" I recall, "I want to have soda during class... I bet it helps students learn!" She was my first of many inspirational educators to set me on my course. Little did my younger sister Liz Berey know how many times she would have to endure playing school growing up.
In 5th grade I had two teachers that opened new doors to my education: Greg Edmundson and Jan Humphrey. Mr. Edmundson, now a veteran Principal at Greek Seneca Creek Elementary School in Germantown, Maryland, was just beginning his education career when I passed through his class. I remember him making us really WANT to be in his class. He was engaging, articulate, humorous, and spontaneously fun. We would occasionally take a "class quiz" and when we inevitably passed, he would take the class outside to play football--he was (and still is!) a huge football fan! I believe he is a major reason for why I like to incorporate so many games into my classroom. Mrs. Humphrey, who I have unfortunately lost touch with, was one of my greatest mentors. Not only was she a fantastic homeroom teacher for my 5th grade school year, but she allowed me to student-teach her 4th grade class in 2002 as part of an education internship while I was still in high school. Mrs. Humphrey is credited with giving me my first real teaching opportunity--I will never forget her for that.
While middle school is often a blur for every pre-adolescent student, two of my teachers in the 8th grade made significant impacts on my life choices. My 8th grade English/Language Arts class, taught by Ellen Lingenfelter, was my first class each and every day. And, like so many of my very own students, I was a natural procrastinator. Ms. Lingenfelter, who I truly believe knew my potential as a student, knowingly let me work on homework/classwork/projects (you name it!) from other classes during her class as long as I kept up with her class too. The price of this generous flexibility was a constant reminder from Ms. Lingenfelter that "you can't procrastinate like this in high school, or in life!" Nevertheless, while I still fall victim to the occasional procrastination just like my students, I know what it takes to be successful and I'm proud to offer the model of "flexibility as long as you get everything done" to my students. My other 8th grade teacher, John Keller, who still teaches at Herbert Hoover Middle School in Potomac, Maryland, put me on a Social Studies track that I am still passionate about today. Mr. Keller gave us CRAZY projects like planning trips around the United States and introducing history via song like Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire." Sound familiar students? I can associate many of my crazy educational projects to the inspiring efforts of John Keller. He even read weekly inspirational stories from "Chicken Soup for the Soul." My 8th grade history class was more than Social Studies--it was learning about life!
By the time high school came around, I was set in my goal to become a classroom teacher. (Only in college did I decide I will someday open up my own school...) Once again, I had two very meaningful social studies teachers during my high school. In 9th grade I had Mr. Andy White. He has since retired in 2007 and I cannot find him anywhere :(, but he was one of the most charismatic, energetic teachers I have ever seen. His captivating lectures and non-stop energy bursts made U.S. History truly exciting, thus setting the standard for my level of energy in the classroom. Additionally, for 11th grade Modern World History, I had the passionate, effervescent Mr. Arthur Bescher. Mr. White was to my U.S. History experience as Mr. Bescher was to my Modern World History experience. Mr. Bescher also made class interesting with intriguing current events and discussions. His exciting energy was highly contagious, except for when he gave these infamous reading check-up quizzes he called "Billy Bookworms." As if I didn't have enough reasons to remember Mr. Bescher and his class, it was during his class that I first heard about the tragedies upon our country on the morning of September 11, 2001. I have no doubt that Mr. Bescher continues to inspire his students.
More recently, I must offer a thank you to Sara Bleiberg Klien who gave me the opportunity to be a Resident Assistant (RA) at one of the largest freshmen residences in the country (Third North @ New York University). Consequently, I met my dear friend and fellow RA, Emilia Diamant, who hooked me up with the contact information to get a teaching position at Country Day School Guanacaste on the beautiful pacific beaches of Costa Rica. I wouldn't be the teacher I am today if it weren't for her.
Finally, upon my most recent move back to the United States, I must give thanks to my Grandview community (especially Tiffany Della Vedova and Jackie Westerfield for giving me a chance), who continue to make me a better teacher, a better leader, and a better person.
When reflecting, there are always so many people to thank as we remember who influenced our lives for the better. I know I speak for all educators when I say we love influencing young lives for the better, watching that "Aha light-bulb moment", and guiding our students to their talents and passions. But none of that is best part of the job. What all educators know, but few students recognize, is that the best part of education is when students come find us months, years, or decades later just to say thank you.
Today, on this Thanksgiving 2011, I want to offer my sincere and grateful Thank You to my students, friends, family, and most importantly this year-- all of you who made an impact on my life... Thank You!