Good teachers are truly priceless
Good teachers are among the most productive members of our society.
Every successful person can probably instantly name teachers who had a profound influence on his or her life. If good teachers were paid what they are worth, they’d all be millionaires.
When I was in college, I briefly considered following in my father’s footsteps and becoming a teacher. Perhaps I could have been a good one, but after a little soul searching I came to the realization that my heart wasn’t totally in it.
The difference between teachers who truly love what they do and do the job well and those just counting the days until summer break and going through the motions is like the difference in brand new Cadillac and a Ford Pinto with four bald tires and a blown head gasket. They’ll both help keep you moving forward, but one can help you get anywhere you want to go.
I should know. I wasn’t always the best student, but I was blessed over the course of my academic career to have some of the best teachers in the business. From kindergarten to college, I’ve learned from some truly special people.
On Friday one of those special people was recognized for touching the lives of four decades worth of students.
Benton Academy celebrated its 40th anniversary Friday, and during halftime they honored Mrs. Betty Smith, who has been teaching at the school since it opened. Mrs. Smith isn’t the kind person who does a lot of talking about herself, so I didn’t even realize she had been there since the beginning. I fully realize what a valuable asset she is to the school, however, because I am one of the many students who benefited from her services.
Mrs. Smith teaches sixth grade these days, but she was teaching third grade when I was in elementary school. It might seem like third grade is too early to have a significant impact on someone’s direction in life, but I picked up a habit in Mrs. Smith’s classroom that definitely helped shape me into the person I am today.
In Mrs. Smith’s class we were often treated to stories. My favorites were the tall tales of Pecos Bill, a cowboy so tough that he could even ride a tornado, and Paul Bunyan, a superhuman lumberjack with a blue ox named Babe. These stories weren’t just about entertainment; they also encouraged us to start reading on our own.
There was a little bookshelf in the back of the classroom, and I remember that one day I set a goal to read every single book on the shelf. I started out with some very simple books. I remember one that was basically a multiple choice book attempting to teach you how to use good manners in different situations, but I quickly moved on to more difficult texts (at least as difficult as could be found in the third grade library).
After I got excited about reading I noticed sometimes that adults would comment when they were surprised because I used a word in conversation that they didn’t expect someone my age to know. That encouraged me to read even more. Being a good reader also helped make me a better listener, and it made me a much better writer over the years. That opened the door for how I make my living. Being able to communicate effectively will help you no matter what your profession may be.
As I said earlier, I wasn’t always a good student. In high school I sometimes lost focus, and to this day I’m terrible at math. Some of my teachers are probably surprised that I ever became a productive member of society. Many of those same teachers deserve much of the credit. Even though my classroom days are long behind me, they helped me develop a love of learning that sticks with me to this day.
Knowing what an impact Mrs. Smith had on my life, it’s hard to imagine what she’s accomplished in 40 years. It’s a legacy that will live on long after she retires from the classroom.
So many of us are still reaping the benefits, and we’re thankful for her service.