This week is officially Teacher Appreciation Week. Why they save it for the end of the school year, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because they figure that teachers are reaching the ends of their rapidly fraying ropes trying to get their students through end of year testing. They’ve been putting up with these little angels for the better part of the last ten months and now it’s time for them to get what’s coming to them. Except, do they get what’s coming to them? Do teachers really get what they deserve, even with a special appreciation week set aside just for them?
I know… That’s a much broader topic for a much more serious time. My intent with this post and my posts over the next two days is not to argue whether I think the average teacher receives a fair compensation for all that they do in our nation’s classrooms. No, my intent is to shine the spotlight on a few of the teachers that I’ve had in my life who made a profound impact on me.
The first teacher that I’d like to appreciate this week is Mrs. Caldwell. I think her first name was Susan. You’ll forgive me if I can’t actually remember. See, she was my 3rd grade teacher. And that was nearly 30 years ago.
I remember meeting her for the first time in one of those pre-school year trips to Raleigh Court Elementary. I think the real reason my dad brought my sister and I to the school that day was because April was about to start kindergarten, so she had some orientation things to deal with. While she did that, I asked to walk over and visit my 1st grade teacher, who I remembered fondly.
Making my way to her classroom, I saw that Mrs. Atkinson’s name was no longer on the door. Instead, it read, “Mrs. Caldwell.” I panicked just a little. I’d heard of Mrs. Caldwell. Wasn’t she a 4th grade teacher? Wasn’t she supposed to be a hard teacher?
I looked next door and saw that Mrs. Atkinson had simply moved one classroom over. And that she, too, would be teaching 3rd grade this year. In my mind, I thought that meant she got a promotion (and I guess that means I thought Mrs. Caldwell was in trouble for something… probably for being too hard on her 4th graders). And then, I realized, maybe I’ll have Mrs. Atkinson again!
She stuck her head out of her classroom and welcomed me back to school. She explained that she was excited to be teaching 3rd grade, but that she was sorry I wouldn’t be in her class. Not to brag, but I’m pretty sure I was her favorite student of all time. Wait… I wouldn’t be in her class? But there are only two 3rd grade classes…
That meant I would be in Mrs. Caldwell’s class!
Note: in the sentence above, that exclamation point is not one of excitement. At the time, it was an exclamation point of terror.
Mrs. Atkinson was kind enough to walk me into Mrs. Caldwell’s classroom so that she could introduce me to my new teacher. I was petrified. I didn’t know what to say or how to say it when I met my 3rd grade teacher for the first time. Mrs. Caldwell, on the other hand, was all smiles. She was very talkative and seemed super excited to meet me. Apparently, she’d heard all kinds of good things about me from Mrs. Atkinson.
Well, that made me feel a little better.
Little did I know, that would be the start to my favorite elementary school year. Honestly, it was probably my favorite year in school altogether until I got to college. Because, for sure, middle school sucked. High school wasn’t much better.
Let me just tell you how Mrs. Caldwell did things. Each week we had new vocabulary words that we had to learn. And the way she tested our knowledge? Split us into teams, boys vs. girls, and we would play Concentration. One board had the words and we had to match those with the definitions on the other board. The winning team got to eat popcorn in class on Friday.
We had a quarterly classroom spelling bee. The winner of that got to go to the teachers’ lounge and buy a soda from the machine with quarters provided by Mrs. Caldwell. Then the winner would return to the classroom and drink that soda in front of everyone else. I won the spelling bee one time. It was a really good feeling to win.
Mrs. Caldwell might have been a little crazy, too. She had this long metal pole that she would use to pull down maps and the projector screen because she was too short to reach. I’m pretty sure she called this metal pole “Miss America.” I don’t know why. I’m pretty sure she had an old, empty coffee can sitting on the chalkboard tray. It had a name, too. I wanna say Fred, but I could be wrong. I honestly can’t remember Fred’s purpose. But I’m sure it was important.
The point of all this, and the dozens of fond memories I’m sure I’m leaving out, is that Mrs. Caldwell made learning fun. I never cared much for my 2nd grade year. My teacher, I’m pretty sure, didn’t like me that much. So, for me, 2nd grade was boring. It was miserable. Mrs. Caldwell introduced me to a teaching style that made me want to be a teacher when I grew up. If you can have that much fun and help students have that much fun, teaching must be a pretty awesome job!
Obviously, I did not become a teacher. But I loved 3rd grade and the vast majority of the credit for that goes to Mrs. Caldwell. So, Mrs. Caldwell, wherever you are, thank you!
What teacher inspired you? Let me know in the comments! Or head over to your own blog and post something about these important individuals who do so much to shape the minds of the next generation!