THAT Teacher

I was recently inspired by this entry from 1000 Awesome Things and started to think about the teachers who will be closing up their classroom doors at the end of the school year. Then I started thinking about all the teachers I’ve had who have shaped my life in one way or another.

Mrs. Remington-my preschool teacher who reinforced my love of books and used to give the whole class books every holiday.

Mrs. Lana Murphy-my 4th grade teacher who yelled at the class for misbehaving during a tornado drill because she didn’t want us to get hurt during a dangerous situation because “she loved us.”

Mrs. Roberta Wallis-my fifth grade teacher who gave me my first B and then said “Don’t settle for mediocrity. Be the best that you can be.”

Mrs. Christi Pace-my seventh grade English teacher who would peek over my shoulder at the “freestyle writing” that I would engage in after turning in my assignments. She helped me win my very first short story competition.

Dr. Mary Riser, my high school AP Biology teacher who showed me that science just worked. I remember when she comforted me after coming into class upset over something another teacher had said to me.

Ms. Lizbeth Wheeler, my high school history teacher whose casual approach to teaching made history interesting and accessible.

Dr. Kendra King-my first Political Science professor at UGA who inspired me to make the leap from Pre-Pharmacy to Political Science.

Professor Reginald McKnight-a creative writing professor who urged us to just call him “Reg” and once wrote on one of my papers “You are a minor goddess of writing. Make flesh from pen and paper.”

And of course, I could never forget Dr. Timothy Powell, the founder of Multicultural Studies at UGA, and the man who I consider to be the best teacher I’ve ever had. I took two of his classes, where he urged his students not only to think outside of the box but to live outside of it. This is the educator who encouraged us to read books that made us uncomfortable, to think of culture beyond racial and ethnic diversity and to use anything and everything – advertisements, music videos, even architecture for our papers as references. One of the best papers I’ve ever written (which I still have!) was based on advertisements and pictures I had collected from periodicals right after 9/11. I also structured one of my papers to be a conversation between two beavers in one of his classes-how’s that for thinking outside of the box?

How many doctors, lawyers, accountants, bankers, can you name who have truly impacted your life in such an unforgettable manner? Yet I’m certain that everyone can name at least one extraordinary educator.

These days I go into schools and see this dynamic relationship between student and teaccher happening over and overa gain. And I ask myself What is it that makes an outstanding teacher? And the answer is always the same: The best teachers are willing to do whatever it takes to make their classrooms the optimal learning environments because above all they believe that the students are the number one priority.

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