During National Education Association's American Education Week, Executive Director Dr. Kathy Wiebke, NBCT, reflects on the teachers who shaped who she has become.Nov 18, 2020
It is hard for me to come up with that “one” teacher who made a difference in my life. I had so many great teachers each inspiring me through the things they loved. You never think about that, but each of us brings a passion to our work and, if you do it well, others have the opportunity to learn and grow. I learned to love geology through Mr. Jones. Mrs. Eades shared her love of great stories and literature. And, if you had Mr. Trimble in high school, you walked away loving Arizona.
But then there are the other qualities of a teacher that stick with you forever. Mrs. Timbrooks taught me to always be inquisitive and creative, both in my work and thinking. When I began my own teaching career I wanted to be like Mrs. Timbrooks. Many years after I started my own career, I learned she was heading up a new school that was grounded in thematic instruction. I remember thinking, That is who I want to be, always challenging my thinking and my craft.’
But there is always that one teacher, no matter how many great ones you have, that you reminisce most about. For me, that was my second grade teacher, Mrs. Mack. The things I remember most about her were her smile, kindness, and her piano. She was the only teacher I ever had, besides the music teacher, to have a piano in her classroom. Because of that piano, singing was a common occurrence. To this day when I hear the songs Over the River and Through the Woods or Silver Bells, I think of her. In her classroom, I believed I could sing (news alert: I can’t carry a tune). I assume I learned the things that all second graders do, but those are not the parts that stand out. It is that smile. Her classroom was a safe space, a welcoming space. She made every one of us feel like we could do anything. Her kindness wasn’t reserved for a few but for us all. We celebrated every kid’s birthday in that classroom (even mine who has a birthday over the holiday break). I remember she had a straw rooster that sat on the top of the piano. Every birthday there would be a message hidden under its wing celebrating that person. I looked forward to school and learning; I hold her responsible for those feelings. I know I was not alone. She found the goodness in every one of us, even when the goodness was hard to find.
It was in second grade I decided to become a teacher. I don’t know what it was about Mrs. Mack or that year in time, but that year sealed my fate. The values of kindness, respect, and to do your best were enshrined in second grade. That year continues to be a reminder that what matters most is something that is not easily measured.
I am the human I am today due in large part to the great teachers I had, but it was Mrs. Mack who set me on the path to be a teacher and for that I will always be grateful.