The Way I Was Taught

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, one of our teaching and learning specialists reflects on how three exceptional teachers shaped her as a person—and an educator.

Research tells us that teachers often teach the way they were taught, not necessarily the way they learned to teach in preparation programs. I was truly fortunate to have wonderful teachers throughout my schooling experience, wonderful teachers to whom I credit my educational success and endurance. I modeled much of my own practice after their exceptional examples.

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, there are three exceptional teachers at each level of education to whom I am profoundly grateful and would like to thank.

Colleen Easterday. Mrs. Easterday encouraged me to reach my highest potential at Laurel Hills Elementary. I think she did that for all of the students before me, in my class and after me. She resolutely and gently demanded that all of the students in her class respect her and each other. I thank her for giving her best and demanding mine. She made my last year in elementary school fun and educational. It was also on her personal recommendation that I was accepted into accelerated middle school classes. Her belief in me was greater than my own self-confidence. Thank you, Mrs. Easterday!

Myrna Mathews. Mrs. Mathews taught seventh- and eighth-grade accelerated English. She was a hip, sassy lady who made learning and reading fun. It was her example that I first copied when I began teaching. We read all over Raytown South Middle School—even outside. She provided us with colorful markers to diagram sentences—which made diagramming cool and colorful. She also knew how to wrangle middle schoolers. I remember having a very heated discussion with a classmate. Mrs. Mathews stuck us both in the hallway and gave us 10 minutes to “handle it.” We did and returned to class rather than taking a trip to the office for classroom disruption. I truly believe she cared about every one of her students—she knew each of us quite well. At the end of our eighth-grade year, she invited us to her neighborhood clubhouse for a pool party. It was a blast! I thank her for always suggesting books she knew I would enjoy reading and for providing me with an education full of requisite skills and love.

Judith Bradshaw. Mrs. Bradshaw taught Spanish at Raytown South High School. I was fortunate to learn from her from my sophomore through senior years of high school. Mrs. Bradshaw was the epitome of stateliness, good manners, impeccable expectations and fun. She made learning Spanish fun! It was always our desire to pull her from her majestic manner—I never saw her angry, and I never saw her yell. She would, however, stick with each student until we all understood—she endeavored to leave no child behind. Thank you, Mrs. Bradshaw, for your unwavering example of humanity and humility. Thank you for recognizing the strengths in each of your students and never lowering your expectations.

When I reflect on the contributions of each of these women to education, I recognize the examples they set for their students—they were firm but gentle, unwavering in their expectations and their love. I felt as though they wanted a connection with me and that connection propelled me to never let them down, to ask questions when I didn’t understand and to view learning as fun. I am thankful for the patience, diligence, passion and care each of these women brought to my schooling experience. I can only hope that I offered my students all of what these teachers freely gave me.

Christian is a teaching and learning specialist with Teaching Tolerance.

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