This time of year always makes me reflect on the accomplishments made by students, teachers and employees of the school district. I am one of those individuals who chose a career doing what best suited me and my skill set. Writing, talking, ‘never met a stranger’ personality and promoting education.
I loved school and never missed a day in 12 years. Not only did I never miss a day, I almost never went home right after school. I was involved in at least half of the extra-curricular activities offered at my school. This passion in me came from my parents and from my desire to emulate my teachers.
There were so many who have no idea how they touched my life. So many positive memories and some not so much.
Allow me to explain. The not so positive experiences came from the subject I detested. With every fiber of my body, I despised mathematics. As a child, I viewed my math teachers as guardians to the academic obstacle course I could never excel at or escape.
Mrs. Dearman is where it all started. Fourth-grade math included division, fractions and extreme multiplication – all the symbols and numbers I had no use for. I sat on that dirt-covered hill during recess many a day, right by her chair, doing what I hated most – more math. All the while she would just smile and use her fingers to demonstrate what I “surely would know if I studied my times tables and charts.” She fought a hard battle, and in the end, succeeded in teaching a stubborn blooming wordsmith how to work with numbers.
Unfortunately, my disdain for numbers carried over to middle school. I managed to tolerate the subject in Mr. Barnett’s class because he was quite a character and he was loud. You had no choice but to get it or spend your lunch with him, a math book and paper until you did. It took one lunch period for me to start taking my math book home and get tutored by the whiz kids in class. I actually ‘got it’ by the end of seventh grade. Alas, my B- was short-lived. It arrived eighth- grade algebra. Ms. Romines – even now, hearing her name makes me shutter. She was a mathematician and then some. So patient, knowledgeable, and boy did she try. Her attempts to make me fall in love with what I perceived as ‘nonsense’ were futile. I won’t get into specifics about my performance in algebra, but let’s just say I did so well, I decided to do it all over again the next year in high school. Once I got past my obsession with algebra I and II, there came geometry I and II. I knew by 10th grade my love was for words, words only. I loved and adored my English classes. My teachers were queens deserving of an NFL paycheck.
Then I met a math teacher named Mary Thomas and she changed my life. She made learning math fun (even when she announced to the class I made the ‘speed limit’ on my first test.)
Mrs. Thomas was a key element in my dedication to school during my last few years. She was superb at teaching, transforming students who refused to like math and scoffed at her jokes into giggling geometric marvels. She named me her assistant during my study hall just so I could study more and watch her work math problems. I didn’t know at the time, but she was trying to tutor me without making me feel challenged.
She also awakened my compassion and desire to participate in community service. I was part of the inaugural Key Club at school and it truly changed my life. She was the Key Club sponsor throughout my high school years and beyond. For this, I thank Mrs. Thomas. She is, to this day, one of my most trusted friends and confidantes. I spent many days at her home and in her company. Learning about charities, family, life and, of course, math.
Everyone reading this column has their own stories of academic defeat, successes, a favorite teacher and, unfortunately, their worst subject in school. I implore you to share it with that teacher who made the difference in your life. I can promise you it means more than any paycheck or plaque they receive.