My granddaughter, who has so much trouble with her expressive language, has no trouble letting me know who her true heroes are. For her, every week is Teacher Appreciation Week. When I ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, that's one question she happily answers -- "a teacher." Teachers are her rock stars.
She can remember the name of every teacher she had at preschool since she was two. Those 15 women made such a huge impression on her that she still sings the greeting songs from their classrooms. They nurtured her, laughed at her attempts at humor, listened respectfully to what she could tell them, and made her feel loved. So the Cherry Preschool staff will always be in her heart.
But the love affair didn't end there. Now in 4th grade, she has a new crew of people she worships. When she received her class photo this fall, there were pictures of every teacher in the school on the back. You would think she had won the lottery. She excitedly pointed out every one of them, first name and last. She has memorized their first names from reading the name tags they wear.
While she greatly admires any teacher, there are a couple she singles out for special mention. First is always her kindergarten teacher. I have heard enough teachers say kindergarten is the one grade they hope to avoid. Too many tears to dry, zippers to zip, noses to wipe, and bathroom accidents to clean up, I guess. It takes a special person to truly love being the first person introducing kids to formal education. So here's a shout out to CL, a teacher so adored that my granddaughter actually wanted to be called by her name for several months (until we all tired of it and it was no longer cute).
She loves her current classroom teacher, who so gently and respectfully includes her in the regular education classroom. But she also adores the special education teacher, whose room my granddaughter calls "Club Nestabrook" -- a pun on the teacher's name but also a statement about how she feels safe and protected by her.
When my granddaughter is feeling stressed out, she goes to her iPad. Sometimes there is a special game she enjoys, but most often she goes to a long list of every teacher she has known since she was two. She typed this list onto the notepad app and goes back to it for comfort and to make revisions.
Seeing that list of all of the teachers who have been so important to my granddaughter reminds me of why I appreciate teachers. After working in education for over 30 years, I think the best ones are what I call the naturals. They have an intangible quality that cannot be learned in books. They confirm my belief that teaching is a calling. Good teaching, aside from knowing the subject matter and methods for classroom instruction, involves a heavy dose of empathy for and love of children.
When I left my job as a high school English teacher so many years ago, my homeroom gave me a plate that said, "Flowers leave their fragrance on the hands that caress them." Thank you to all of the teachers out there who caress those beautiful flowers in their classrooms. May your hands and hearts be fragrant from having touched the lives of so many children.