TEACHERS ARE MY FAVORITE
Why did I end up going back to my high school after college graduation? It’s simple: my teachers. The impression Brook Hill left on my soul? It was them. Teaching wasn’t their day gig so they could have summers off and enjoy the fruits of their high-end salary. (Have you seen what private school teachers make?) These were men and women devoted to showing kids how to grow into successful, thoughtful human beings. They were the reason I wanted to be a teacher. If I had a lasting impact on one student the way many teachers left with me, there’s no greater place I could have been during those short years.
During my junior year, The Phantom of the Opera movie was released. My Bible teacher, Shawn Rhoads, put the lyrics of Music of the Night on the overhead projector so we could analyze it as a class. Maybe this seems simple, but every time I hear this song now, I think of this class period. He was so intentional with us. He used these lyrics to ask us how to decipher good from evil, light from dark. And he wasn’t talking to us. He was asking us. Really asking us like he was interested in our thoughts and ideas. This is the teacher who led a Bible Study for high school boys before school started & who opened our first school coffee shop so students had a place to hang out together. He was honest and treated us with respect, and we revered him for it.
I kept a box of schoolwork for several years after I graduated. One of the pieces in there was a paper I wrote in the ninth grade—my first big paper. I don’t even remember what it was over, but I kept it because of my teacher’s comments. Kent Travis is the first teacher who gifted me with the idea that I could write. He was tough and had high expectations, but he also had an encouraging word for every critique, and he invested more time in our work than possibly any other teacher I’ve had. If there was a teacher I wanted to make proud, it was him. He put so much effort into his craft and showed us what it looked like to appreciate hard work.
My senior English class was taught by Connie Russell. She also taught our junior English class, & we loved her so much, we begged her to move up with us. Maybe this was already the plan, but we absolutely credited ourselves for her decision. There was only around ten of us, & we met in the senior lounge so instead of rows of desks, we all sat together on a couple of couches. She taught us how to read books in a way so we could empathize with its characters. We analyzed poetry, & we wrote creative stories. When I didn’t pass the AP exam that year, she only told me how smart I was & that this test didn’t change that. She believed in each of us & gave us both ability & ambition.
Your job may feel like the same thing day after day. You may not get much recognition or feel like you have much control. But I promise you—when you love people like it’s your job—whether it be punk toddlers, punk students, or punk adults—you are making an enormous, everlasting impact. My life is forever better because of my teachers, & it’s not because of a one time, monumental occurrence. It’s because they kept showing up & looking me in the face & adding value to my life.