December
21st 2010
Fight against America’s War on Teachers: it’s Thank a Non-Cokehead, Non-Abusive Teacher Day!

Posted under: American history, childhood, jobs, students, unhappy endings, wankers

Not Mrs. Obenshain!

(Probably not a teacher.)

Yes, it’s that time of the season, friends:  the first day of winter, and the day my grades are due!  I’m feeling particularly pleased and generous today, in spite of this ridiculous story that holds up one abusive cokehead teacher as emblematic of all public school teachers in New Jersey (h/t RealClearPolitics yesterday.)  You think I’m kidding?  Take a good, long, trainwrecky look at it.  The author, the newspaper, and the entire state of New Jersey should be ashamed of it.  (Why do we never read stories like this in the newspaper about abusive, drug-addled investment bankers and how difficult it is to fire them in spite of their graft, corruption, psychopathy, and danger to the global economy?  Why are stories about professional male athletes like this actively suppressed, and their victims trashed whenever stories about them leak into the media?  Gee–I wonder!)

Can we teachers, professors, and other educators let this go unanswered?  I don’t think so.  So that’s why I’ve named this observance of the Winter Solstice the Thank a Non-Cokehead, Non-Abusive Teacher Day!  The warriors against America’s teachers have loads of worst-case-scenarios like the teacher in this story, but we never hear from all of the people who are happy with teachers.  We never hear about the teachers who stoop down to help tug off boots or tie shoes, even if they’re not your teacher (or your kid’s teacher).  We rarely hear about the hundreds of thousands of teachers who are spending their own money to keep their students in crayons, glue, and pencils.  We almost never hear about the days and evenings teachers spend after school tutoring their students, addressing parents’ concerns, and/or working with social services to ensure their students are living in safe, clean, and supportive environments.  You know, the kind of things teachers do that they consider part of their jobs, for which they’re never given any credit (or even any respect these days.)

All you have to do is thank a teacher who made a difference in your life, and give her or his name and affiliation and the approximate date of your encounter as you feel comfortable giving.  Here’s mine:

There are so many teachers who have been important in my education that it’s difficult to pick just one, but I think I’d like to say thanks to Mrs. Obenshain, my first-grade teacher back at Central Elementary in Sylvania, Ohio, in 1974-75.  Mrs. Obenshain, you may no longer be alive now, but you were the first teacher I remember who recognized my academic talent and encouraged it.  I loved writing “stories” for you on that fat-lined paper with the space on top for illustrations.  You were also the first teacher to tell me to stop shouting out all of the answers and to give other children a chance–that was probably a good lesson to learn at age 6, too.  And as far as I know, you never a cokehead, nor were you ever abusive, even though some of my classmates undoubtedly deserved it.  Thanks a lot for your years of service to the Sylvania schools.

Et vous, mes amis?  Which non-cokehead, non-abusive teacher would you like to thank today?

40 Comments »

40 Responses to “Fight against America’s War on Teachers: it’s Thank a Non-Cokehead, Non-Abusive Teacher Day!”

  1. Anna on 21 Dec 2010 at 7:04 am #

    I’d like to thank, honestly, the teacher I had who was fantastic despite the fact that I later found he was an alcoholic and sometimes drank instead of eating over his lunch hour. Because being addicted to something doesn’t make you less of a person, and neither does it automatically make you a bad one. He made history a living thing, and politics interesting.

    I know that’s not the point anybody’s trying to make, but I think it’s an important one.

  2. Anon on 21 Dec 2010 at 7:07 am #

    As a parent in NJ our school district (Tenafly) has some horrors. But they did manage to get rid of the science teacher suddenly and quietly mid-semester because according to the rumor mill he was pestering one girl inappropriately. It completely screwed up my kid’s 9th grade science class to have a string of substitutes. How did this guy get in? How do you explain this on a college application?

    What about the 7th grade French teacher who took a vacation to Europe and never returned mid year. And it didn’t stop the school from giving Bs and Cs to the students, all the while saying we know you’ve had a rough year.

    See my post on greatschools. net on safety. http://www.greatschools.org/school/parentReviews.page?id=1941&state=NJ

    I’ve been meaning to ask this group for advice on how to deal with it. Thanks in advance for your feedback.

  3. Fratguy on 21 Dec 2010 at 7:49 am #

    To Anon,
    Advise ? I’d advise you to read and understand the post before trolling and thread jacking.
    You’re welcome.

  4. Dr. Virago on 21 Dec 2010 at 8:00 am #

    Since I mostly went to Catholic schools and this fight is about public schools, I’ll thank my one public school teacher, Mrs. Lois Cerne of Marsha Bagby Elementary School in Overland Park, KS (now defunct — there’s a retirement/assisted living/nursing home there now). I remember that her classroom was a place of calm and general happiness, with time for both structured learning and unstructured play, and I still wonder how she managed it. I remember that the reading groups had names like “bluebirds” and “robins” so no one would know that they were in a remedial group, but would still get the attention they needed. I remember learning that the English drink their tea with milk when we did a unit on international cultures through food (I’m sure other foods and places were involved — but I was clearly an Anglophile from an early age). And I remember the day I spaced out and daydreamed instead of doing my in-class work, and got a crying sad face and a note from Mrs. Cerne that said: “What happened? This isn’t like you. Is anything wrong?” (I’m sure it was more for my parents than me, but I still remember the concern it showed.) And I remember not wanting to disappoint her again.

    They say that good early education is key to success in school at later levels, and Mrs. Cerne was my first teacher, since I didn’t go to preschool. So Mrs. Cerne deserves a lot of praise and thanks, since I pretty much turned out to be a professional student! :)

  5. ga on 21 Dec 2010 at 8:22 am #

    Thank you Mrs. Scanlon, who I know has long since passed away, for staying in with me all those lunch recess periods. I wrote two numbers backwards and her patience and calm way of making it a “game” and more special time than remedial probably had more effect on my life than on my mild dyslexia. (Actually, a common thing with 7 year olds that isn’t really quite dyslexia). I can remember the day I suddenly *saw* that my 3s and 5s were “pointing the wrong way.” What I remember most was the kindness and the attention—that my little problem was worth her time and her constant reassurance that I was a “very smart girl.”
    I’m sure she didn’t want to spend her precious hour away from second graders doing that. But she did and gave me a gift that was more than just the tutoring on writing numbers.

    I’ve never forgotten that.

  6. Anon on 21 Dec 2010 at 8:34 am #

    To fratguy — as a frequent reader and commenter of this blog I thought it would be the appropriate place to ask about problems in NJ schools given the post is on NJ schools. But I understand now that commenters are meant to sing the praises of this post not suggest that the article might actually have a point and provided context for why I think so.

  7. Ruth on 21 Dec 2010 at 8:46 am #

    Jeannette Kimball, whom I had for algebra and later for calculus at South Eugene High School. It must have been really frustrating for her to have girls in her class who were good at math but didn’t want to be because in the early 1970s being good at math was so uncool. Not all the girls thought so: one of my female classmates is now a particle physicist. But I have long felt regret that although I could have done more with math I wanted so desperately to be cool that I didn’t. I have been thinking a lot about Ms. Kimball recently because my high-school-aged daughter is interested in math, plans to be an engineer, and is really enjoying calculus. I wish for Ms. Kimball’s sake she had a chance to teach more students like my daughter instead of like me.

  8. Janice on 21 Dec 2010 at 8:51 am #

    I could thank so many teachers, but I’ll give a shout out to Mr. Guy, my high school chemistry teacher who, for two years, was endlessly patient with my laboratory catastrophes. I could score amazingly well on written tests and then cause the simplest experiment to fail in epic fashion.

    Mr. Guy kept me alive, despite my best efforts to the contrary, and only asked that I not pursue a chemistry major at university, but stick to something safer. I can’t blame him: it was good advice!

    He also showed me that patience is one of the greatest assets any educator can have. When I get impatient with a student who’s missing the point or stuck on something unimportant, while the main material goes flying by, I stop and remember Mr. Guy. It helps me get through the day without an ulcer!

  9. Tenured Radical on 21 Dec 2010 at 9:27 am #

    Never attended a single public school. That’s right — I’m one of those. But that said?

    Elizabeth Schall, now an attorney, who taught me US history and broke it to me that you can’t just be clever, wordy and repeat everything folks want to hear and be a historian. The woman introduced me to primary sources, how to have an original idea and not insignificantly, feminism.

  10. Tony Grafton on 21 Dec 2010 at 9:53 am #

    And here’s to Mr Lehney, who loved books, and read T.H. White’s Mistress Masham’s Repose aloud to his rapt elementary school class in suburban Connecticut–and made them curious about all kinds of things that you couldn’t find in the suburbs, in the fifties.

  11. Indyanna on 21 Dec 2010 at 10:05 am #

    Mrs. Goldsmith, kindergarten, Polk St. Elem. Sch., sometown on Long Island. The paragon/paradigm of the kind of early teacher kids come to adore, and this got me through a few second-tierers in the next few years and a really bad time in jr. high school, until some more gold standard teachers could step in and reconstruct. Approximate date? Sometime in the second half of the last century.

  12. truffula on 21 Dec 2010 at 10:12 am #

    As others have said, there are many teachers to thank but I’ll pick two.

    Mr. Bernard Cody, whom I lucked into twice, for junior and senior English. He was also the drama club director, though I was not that particular kind of geeky kid. Mr. Cody taught me to think critically and deeply, to analyze what I read, and to be careful in my writing. I’m a scientist now but I think of Bernard (accent on the first syllable please) Cody often for the sound intellectual foundation he helped me build.

    Mrs. Colleen Anderson, high school “world” history and international relations. Like Mr. Cody, Mrs. Anderson took me seriously as a thinker. She supported my interest in leftist interpretations of historical events in an era and geographic region where this made me an oddball. She was supportive of everybody in the classroom, whether they had any opinions or not.

    Mrs. Anderson gave me an important lesson in owning your actions when I went back to visit her a few years later. I’d participated in the production of an underground newspaper at college, a publication intended to air complaints about college priorities and administrative decisions. One article in our first issue, written by another author, repeated some unflattering rumors about a senior administrator’s wife. After scanning that article, Mrs. Anderson looked up and asked why I hadn’t put my name on the publication. Point made, lessons learned.

  13. Fratguy on 21 Dec 2010 at 10:25 am #

    Richard White, an all too human and faulted geometry teacher/football coach whose unbelievably animated lectures brought out the beauty that was held in the subject. When he saw that we were keeping up with his curriculum he kicked it up a notch in the second semester and pushed us into advanced trig as sophomores.

  14. Historiann on 21 Dec 2010 at 10:26 am #

    To fratguy — as a frequent reader and commenter of this blog I thought it would be the appropriate place to ask about problems in NJ schools given the post is on NJ schools. But I understand now that commenters are meant to sing the praises of this post not suggest that the article might actually have a point and provided context for why I think so.

    Is this a post that thinks that articles about cokehead abusive teachers “have a point” beyond fanning the War on Teachers? Is this a post arguing that we should tolerate cokehead abusive teachers? Or is this post a place where we can talk about the value of educators in our lives, because there’s very little discussion of this in the mainstream media?

    I thought it was clearly the latter. Fratguy isn’t as nice as I am, but he pretty much made the point I would have made.

    All of the other comments here are really poignant, but Ruth’s comment about her regrets with high school math strikes a chord. Yay for your daughter, Ruth! (Please tell her NOT to get a Ph.D. in the humanities!)

  15. ntbw on 21 Dec 2010 at 10:39 am #

    Wow–great idea for a post! Where to start? I went to public school K-12 in the 1970s and 1980s in a small town in rural Tennessee, and I got a fantastic education. Almost all of my teachers were great, starting with Mrs. Scott in kindergarten, who was the kindest, gentlest, most creative teacher imaginable. Then, in second grade, I had Mrs. Huddlestone, who introduced me to the joys of poetry. Third grade–Mrs. Alstatt, who taught me that being a smart girl is cool.

    In high school, in my freshman English class with Mr. Foreman, I had a real epiphany (a word I think I probably learned from him as well), learning how to analyze and interpret literature. Before that class, I never really liked English class, because I thought all that you could do with books, other than reading them, which I loved, was writing book reports, which were beyond boring. My sophomore English teacher, Mr. Cornelius, taught me how to write argumentative, analytical, original essays. He’s the reason I was able to move straight into literature classes at Vanderbilt, skipping all the comp classes. Mrs. Weaver and Mr. Montgomery, my chemistry and biology teachers, are responsible for my being the only non pre-med student in my professor’s experience at Vanderbilt to make an A in molecular biology. That as an English and French double major I even took molecular biology is a tribute to the curiosity about and interest in science that they gave me (and that I still have, even though I’m an English professor).

    I’ll just add that part of the reason I had so many wonderful teachers was that they were allowed actually to teach their subjects, subjects about which they were passionate. I graduated before the era of all standardized testing, all the time, something for which I am very grateful. Also, while I’m sure my teachers were not very highly paid (Mr. Cornelius mentioned above ran an appliance repair service, presumably to supplement his teaching salary), they were respected professionals in the community.

  16. Dr. Crazy on 21 Dec 2010 at 10:44 am #

    Mr. Sors, my high school Latin teacher who called his mom “mums,” said his favorite band was the Bee Gees (and would sometimes regale us with their songs), who would tell students who got the wrong answer to hold hands and skip into a brick wall together, and who had a terrible allergy to chocolate that caused his lip to swell up, but who loved chocolate with a love that was pure and true and so ate it anyway. Oh, and he also had us march through the halls on the Ides of March singing something…. I forget what… but it was super nerdy and awesome. Oh, and he only addressed me as Miss Doctor Crazy, Star of Stage and Screen (because I was in a couple of plays), and once told me that my thoughts were so jumbled that I was like the movie where they make a milkshake in a girl’s head (which I actually saw at some point, but I forget the name of it). One of the coolest teachers ever. And, in addition to his coolness, he did an amazing job of teaching me Latin :)

  17. Historiann on 21 Dec 2010 at 10:48 am #

    “Mr. Sors, . . . who would tell students who got the wrong answer to hold hands and skip into a brick wall together. . . “

    A-HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

    I’ll have to use that one next term in my classes, too.

  18. Mother of ALL on 21 Dec 2010 at 10:49 am #

    My 8th grade teacher, Sister Ann Marie. She really pushed me that year. She had the nerve to tell me that I lacked initiative. I was dumb-struck! Here I was, practically the smartest kid in the class and she had the nerve to challenge me? She sure did and I thank her memory quite frequently. Smart kids need a kick in the pants, too.

  19. Bardiac on 21 Dec 2010 at 11:01 am #

    Miss Peters, who taught high school math. She taught my Dad, my brother, cousins, and I. She deserves a lot of credit for putting up with me, especially.

    Ms. Vaughn, who tried to teach me English, but I was a stubborn kid.

    Mrs. Wise, who taught third grade and was very kind, though she didn’t push me as hard to learn my multiplication tables as my Mom thought she should. So my Mom did.

    Dr. Rudd, who managed to resist sexism in my college bio courses quietly, and who kept trying to do a better job teaching through alcoholism and recovery.

    Dr. Shapiro, who gave me a tiny sense of what it meant to be really educated.

    I could go on. :)

  20. Perpetua on 21 Dec 2010 at 11:39 am #

    Mr. Reichenbaum, who refused to let anyone pass his class who could not identify all 50 states and their capitals on a map!

    I come from a family of teachers & would be remiss if I did not honor my mother, grandfather, uncle & cousins for their dedication to the public school system.

  21. Dr. Koshary on 21 Dec 2010 at 11:55 am #

    I have been fortunate to have had many great teachers. There were some particular stand-outs, though.

    Mrs. Griffin in the third grade. I can’t put my finger on it now, but somehow she made everything fascinating. She couldn’t help but present information by throwing in asides and add-ons that (for me, anyway) enriched the lessons. You got your money’s worth from her, and then some.

    Mrs. Markloff, my fifth-grade English teacher. She was the first teacher instructing me in English who didn’t give us a story or book written expressly for children, but turned us loose on the high-octane stuff: Edgar Allen Poe, Mark Twain, O. Henry, Shirley Jackson, Frank Stockton, and other stuff besides. That class may have been the biggest eye-opener I experienced, until I got to college and discovered Pseudology, that showed me what a big, wide world was out there, and how much great stuff to read and learn there was. Perhaps my most formative literature class ever.

    Mr. Hubbard, my sixth-grade history teacher. His class was an epistemological turning point for me, when I began to grasp history as a dynamic mass of real people’s lives, instead of just another thing to read about as a flat data dump. On a similar note to Mother of All’s, I think he may have been the first teacher who ever criticized me for not working as hard as I might, in a class where I thought I didn’t really have to try to do just fine. “Just fine” struck Mr. Hubbard as under-performing, and bless him for making me realize that.

    Those are easily my top three in my pre-college life.

  22. Historiann on 21 Dec 2010 at 12:01 pm #

    Perpetua–Mr. Reichenbaum did you all a big favor. At Bryn Mawr, I was shocked to learn how provincial most easterners really are, and how little familiarity they had with a map of their own country. In a geology class, we had to take a map quiz and label all 50 states of the U.S., and a friend of mine (a New Yorker!) labeled New York Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania New York. West Virginia was labeled Ohio, and Ohio was labeled Kansas.

    She was an otherwise brilliant, creative, interesting woman–but she didn’t even know which direction she traveled to get to college. Strange.

  23. truffula on 21 Dec 2010 at 12:44 pm #

    Oh, geography. I was really surprised in February of 2003 when sophomores in a class I was teaching couldn’t identify a single country in a satellite image map of the near east on over to north Africa. We were on the eve of invading Iraq, maps of the region were all over the news, and not a clue. I refrained from commentary but was a little bit disgusted.

  24. HistoryMaven on 21 Dec 2010 at 12:52 pm #

    Mrs. Margaret Shoemaker, my first grade teacher, sparked my love of reading and made me believe I could write. The only image I remember drawing for her class was in response to her question “What do you want to be when you grow up? I drew a quill pen and inkwell.

    Mrs. Shoemaker, with that sort of purple-tinted hair older women had back then, tutored me at home when I recuperated from a near-death experience with pneumonia. She received no extra compensation. She just appeared on the doorstep one day. I think I’ll get a purple dye job in her honor!

    And I still read every book as if it was the last one on earth.

  25. The Rebel Lettriste on 21 Dec 2010 at 1:44 pm #

    Mrs. Tabin, 1st and 2nd grade, early 1980′s, Washington Elementary School, District 65, Evanston, IL. She taught me how to read. ‘Nuff said.

    A shout out also to Mrs Emerson, my AP English teacher, for encouraging me to write poems. And to Mr. Geni, high school physics–a brilliant man who could teach to the smart kids and chose instead to teach to the cast offs.

  26. sophylou on 21 Dec 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    Mr. George Sweet, my sophomore and junior English teacher, who also did an independent reading class with me junior year when I dropped out of band and needed an extra class. Mr. Sweet saw me past the glare and noise of the two Officially Smart Girls in class. I was smart, but I was very shy and very quiet. He encouraged me to write poetry and submit it to a contest, giving me the sense that there was a world beyond the very limited horizon of my high school. He loved to ask philosophical questions in class, which I loved trying to answer (to his relief, I think, since no one else would even try). He gave me the space to be myself, to think out loud, *and* to be heard by someone.

    And Mr. Stiens, who taught my “Social Theories” class junior year, which was really an intellectual history course. One of his exams taught me how to study, a skill I hadn’t really needed in my under-par high school. This class led, indirectly, to my choosing to major in history, something my actual history classes would NEVER have made me want to do.

    That same year, I took a dreadful sociology course taught by, of course, a football coach, who routinely made fun of me and my friend Matt for being brainy nerds. Once he came into my social theories classroom to harass me and Matt. Mr. Stiens ushered him out. As he left, the sociology teacher bawled, “Well, at least MY daughters aren’t going to grow up to be INTELLECTUAL SNOBS!” Mr. Stiens, propelling him out, said politely, with just a hint of acid, “Don’t worry. They won’t.” The sociology teacher didn’t pick up on the sarcasm. It was a great moment.

  27. Susan on 21 Dec 2010 at 5:11 pm #

    At Wagner Junior High in NYC:
    Miss Grant (7th grade English) who taught me the 22 auxiliary verbs (which I can still recite) and made me know that language mattered. She made the boys wear ties, and she spoke very properly, and it made a huge impression on my.
    Miss Dinnerstein (9th grade English) who loved literature.
    Mr. Greenhut, who I never actually had as a teacher, but ran the current events club in my junior high, and took us to Washington DC, Boston, and who knows where else. He thought history mattered.

    And at PS 198 in Manhattan, my 6th grade teacher,(whose name I have temporarily forgotten) who always told us we could do better. For a bunch of smart alecs, it was not a bad lesson, if not always well delivered.

  28. Kris on 21 Dec 2010 at 6:27 pm #

    Thanks to my daughter’s first school teachers who bought craft supplies on the weekend with their own money, made a store of sandwiches for students who came to school with no food and knew and cared for each child as an individual. And each day Ms Wilcox would tie my daughter’s shoe laces at least three times.

    Mrs Garwood and Ms Wilcox have helped my daughter love school and respect the differences amongst her classmates.

  29. Indyanna on 21 Dec 2010 at 6:32 pm #

    Mrs. Haber. In sixth grade, I was your emerging borderline truant, as Mrs. Goldsmith’s influence wore off. Mrs. Haber’s spouse was an executive with the company that made the coolest plastic model ships, jet fighters, and hot rods, and every other Friday afternoon, when we were behaving, she brought out bags of factory seconds and let us learn by glueing. On a class “trip” downstairs to the Library I started rhythmically stamping on the stairs and got everybody doing it. When nobody would give up the truant (including the truant) Mrs. H. cut off the glue–I mean the plastic–indefinitely. I was the proverbial dead kid walking for a week or two. How it all came out I don’t remember, but she relented. The “smart” kids in Mr. Finger’s class were furious and spread the rumor that we were the “dumb” class and the parents got into it and then didn’t the fur fly! I wish I hadn’t two years later blown up that maroonish plastic oil tanker with a firecracker.

  30. koshem Bos on 21 Dec 2010 at 7:24 pm #

    At least ten teachers from my pre-college days were great; stayed in my fund memories each with her/his special gifts. All helped me in the of my life and helped me with my own kids.

    A suggestion: change the word teacher with Black or Jew. It is simply a newly created racism.

  31. Western Dave on 21 Dec 2010 at 7:28 pm #

    Mr. Williams, my fifth grade teacher, who dealt with my tendency to talk to neighbors after finishing my work by giving me a copy of Macbeth and telling me to read it whenever I got done early. It took me all year, and I don’t think I understood it but even then I had a sense that the really good stuff was going to be hard.

    Mrs. Janie Peterson, 11th and 12th grade English who cultivated my sense of being an intellectual and always treated me like a smart person. Despite the fact that I wasn’t in the honors class that year.

    And oddly enough, Alan Lowe, a gym teacher who noticed that no matter how bad I sucked I always tried and therefore taught me a few things about the importance of persistence and technique in the face of talent. (The fact that he was short like me didn’t hurt either).

  32. MsMcD on 21 Dec 2010 at 10:19 pm #

    I’ve really enjoyed reading all the reminisces. I also never went to public school in the States. I grew up in Europe. One of my favorite schools was mostly populated with teachers who had been kicked out of America for being “pink” in the 50s. My teachers were hippies, non-conformist and intellectually rigorous- and I thought they were great!

    My favorite: Ms Patricia Barry, 9th grade English. Many of the books we read that year were at one point banned in America. She didn’t believe there were any bad words in the English language, and she gave me first and only F so that I would be forced to work harder (that’s what she told my mother who was also an English teacher). She also spent her free time getting supplies for schools where the students were very poor. She forced me to think- and for that I will always be grateful.

  33. Notorious Ph.D. on 22 Dec 2010 at 12:30 am #

    Ms. Prentice, my 8th-grade English teacher, who actually dared to give twelve year-olds books like Animal Farm, then showed us how to read them on more than the superficial level.

    Mr. Brenner, my high-school German teacher, who spent almost as much time teaching us about medieval “German” history as the language itself; my interest in medieval studies may have started with purloining the historical fiction that my mother brought home from the library, but Mr. Brenner’s classes suggested to me that there might be more to learn, and that I just needed to go look for it.

  34. Katherine on 22 Dec 2010 at 6:18 am #

    Miss Klyberg (it was the 60s)of Willard Elementary School, my first grade teacher. She made all of us feel special and loved. When I got chickenpox and had to stay home the reading thing clicked and she piled on the books. She never worried that when I returned I was going to be way ahead of everyone else. She continued to give me books to read even after I left her class.

  35. Meghan on 22 Dec 2010 at 7:45 am #

    Cheers to Mr. Martin of Western Albemarle High School, who taught me how to be a real historian. I had thought that history was boring before his class, but he taught us how to read primary sources and how to use the internet to find even more sources — this was still a new idea back in my day! His class was the first time I realized that I loved to research and write.

  36. Susan on 22 Dec 2010 at 8:34 am #

    Apologies for forgetting my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Saltzman’s, name. He had us read The Red Badge of Courage and Green Mansions. Even though his favorite punishment was writing lines of something, he helped “smart” kids know that smart involved work.

  37. gwoman on 22 Dec 2010 at 8:42 am #

    I lurk here often, but this is my first post. I’ve two teachers to commemorate. The first, Miss Cobb taught first my grandmother, then my mother and finally me in kindergarten. She was so very, very kind, and that helped make kindness a norm for me.

    The second teacher taught me Civics in the tenth grade. I wish I could remember her name. She recognized the worth of all her students regardless of color or class or academic standing. This was a first for me. Thanks for the opportunity to thank her.

  38. eldgie on 22 Dec 2010 at 9:33 am #

    Past about 6th grade, I never liked math, but some of my most memorable teachers taught that subject: Mrs. Rabin, who made geometry fascinating, and who got a bunch of us hooked on bridge (yes, we were nerds!); Mr. Stimson, who was a total sweetheart; and Mr. Williams, who simply didn’t accept the idea that some people just can’t do math, and who cheerfully dragged me kicking and screaming through pre-calc.

    My all-time best teacher was Zebulon Robbins, 6th grade. Mr. Robbins, if you’re out there, thank you!

  39. JJO on 22 Dec 2010 at 1:00 pm #

    I benefited from a fantastic group of teachers in a fantastic local school system, so it would be tedious to name them all, but the highlights include:

    Ms. Bussey (later Ringgold) — calculus and I.B. math. Best teacher I ever had.
    Mr. Harold — history (a Scotsman and graduate of the University of Glasgow … he used to jokingly date major events in relation to the founding of the university (1451). I got a huge kick out of being able to deliver a paper there at Omohundro about a decade(!) ago. He had already passed on by then.)
    Ms. Tatum — sex ed: a crusader for sex education, tolerance, and emotional health in the schools against local and national backlash, some of which was aimed specifically at her.
    Mr. Hoover — English
    Mr. Klass — English

    Also, @Meghan, 7:45am — I know Mr. Martin and will be passing your kind words along through channels…

  40. token undergrad on 23 Dec 2010 at 2:40 pm #

    Thanks for initiating this, Historiann.

    I was never in Mrs. Retter’s sixth-grade class–the San Diego Unified School District didn’t reclassify me as “gifted” until high school–but I had the distinction of being the only non-student ever allowed to borrow books from her classroom library. Thanks to Mrs. Retter’s classroom library, I read Robert Louis Stevenson and Dumas père, and I became a fierce partisan of Bonnie Prince Charlie in the 1745-6 Jacobite rebellion. Like me, Mrs. Retter always questioned authority, she didn’t present very conventionally, and she certainly didn’t ever keep her opinions to herself; her classroom and her person created a safe zone when I was bullied every day for being smart and different and talkative and not very feminine. Mrs. Retter is the reason I never tried to disguise my nerdiness or my intelligence in order to fit in. And though I didn’t fully realize it until I wrote this comment, she more than anyone is why I realized I want to be a historian when I grow up.