Celebrating Those Amazing Teachers Who Changed My Life on Teacher Appreciation Day
It's National Teacher Appreciate Week and today is Teacher Appreciation Day. Give a shout-out to the teachers that changed your life for the better.
GOOD TEACHERS WERE THE CONSTANT IN MY LIFE
I moved around 13 times before I settled down in middle school. I met a lot of teachers. The ones I remember most are those who took the time to get to know me even if I was only with them for a very short time. They would spend extra effort making sure I felt welcome and loved. There were also those teachers who I don't necessarily remember their names but I remember what they did for me. It molded me into the person I am who also loves to help others.
HARD LESSONS LEARNED FROM TWO AMAZING MEN
I'll just go ahead and say I was a butthead when I was a kid. Not like a mean kid but I was as mischievous as the day is long. I was a talker (imagine that) and if there was fun to be had at a cost I was probably involved. I remember I was finally settled into school at Burns Middle School in 8th grade and had made close friends. My friend Kelly Coomes and I were as thick as thieves. We had every single class together. The best class we had together was Mr. Bradley's Social Studies Class. He was the kindest man you could ever meet. He talked really soft but Lord Jesus don't make that man mad he would get you together real quick. On this particular day in class, Mr. Bradley was reading from our Social Studies book. Kelly and I had the bright idea that we would take straws and wet paper and shoot spitballs. We started out by hitting the board behind him. Then Kelly accidentally hit the ceiling directly above his head. The entire class lost focus waiting for it to drop and then it did. I thought I might die right there in my chair. His face turned red and he looked up at all of us. He had no clue where it came from he just knew it happened. His voice lowered real deep and then he began to cry. No one knew what to do. It was time for lunch so he dismissed us. Kelly and I stayed behind to tell him it was us that did it and we apologized. He told us he knew kids acted silly but our actions were disrespectful (and he was right). That day I realized just how important teaching was to him and even more important respect. I found deep gratitude for him and his kindness. Mr. Bradley always hugged my neck when I saw him out and about in town all those years after I left his class and he never forgot my name. He had a smile that could brighten even the gloomiest day.
As life would have it I ended up becoming friends with one of his granddaughters, Gabby, who I think the world of, and she gave me a few pictures of him to use for my story. Here's what she told me;
He remembered you and we talked about
you a few times! He was so good at
remembering his kids.
The next teacher I'd like to celebrate is Mr. Tommy Claypool. He was my 10th-grade Algebra teacher. He was AWESOME!
I sit back and reminisce about his class and how very we loved it. Two of my very best friends in the world to this day were there with me and we made the best of every period we were there.
I know I said Algebra but Mr. Claypool made it so much more. We figured out early on in the year that Mr. Claypool loved talking about planes and serving in the military and we knew the trigger words that could get a good ole' story started and everyone in the class would breathe a sigh of relief as he pulled his chair up and sat back and put his hands behind his head. We would settle in and listen to him tell us about the old days. Honestly, we all loved his stories and not just because we didn't have to do the math, but more because he had a way of telling them that made us sit up and listen.
Mr. Claypool was a super mild-mannered gentleman. He never raised his voice at us and we were all chatty Kathy's. Especially the four of us in the back right corner. He would give us a glare and we would immediately straighten up.
One story I'll never forget was the time we decided it would be a good idea to steal a math test. Everyone single person in our class was on the struggle bus. Probably because we had him telling more stories than teaching lessons. So we cooked up a plan. On the day of the test, we were feeling pretty good. Our group finished the test in record time and left the class feeling pretty darn good.
When we returned to class the next day Mr. Claypool had graded our tests. He explained to the class that he could tell it was a hard one because most of the class had failed it. Then he went on to say but 4 students seemed to get it all so well they all got 100%. Oh NO, he knows I could feel my face turning red. I was waiting for him to loooose it. But wait, he didn't call us out. That's how awesome he was. He proceeded to tell everyone he discovered the test was missing from his office and whoever took it had until the end of the day to confess. That was the most gut-wrenching thing I had to do at 15. Talk about swallowing your pride and learning a lesson in honesty. I was the first to go to his office. I think I cried the whole time. He gave us all 50% for the test. That wasn't the worst thing for me. It was knowing I disappointed him. I was an immature, silly teenager. I was only thinking about making it easier for myself and my friends. What I did know is that changed the course of how I conducted myself in class. Now I still talked and acted silly but never again did I do something like that.
Mr. Claypool retired a year later I tell myself it wasn't because of our class.
About five years ago I ran into him and one of his football buddies at Dee's Diner I turned around in my booth and told him who I was and how he was one of my very favorite teachers. He smiled and told me he remembered exactly who I was. And then...in true Mr. Claypool fashion, he told me a story! This time my whole family got to hear and then I shared with them what I did all those years ago. He even invited me out to visit his wildflower field that summer.
Tommy Claypool taught me about life lessons, integrity, slowing down, and sharing. He was not focused on tests, math lessons, or all the mess teachers have to deal with these days. I learned more in his class in a year than I did in most of my classes all through high school.
Today I am thankful for his grace, sternness, and love for his students.
Last but certainly not least we are gonna take it all the way back to Kindergarten. I think almost every child remembers their very first teacher. I had the best of the best. Cindy Searcy was an Angel here on earth. She was small but mighty. She was strict and loving and kept my talkative, sassy butt in line. I just recall her being like a superwoman for real. Goodness, she had to be with a room full of five-year-olds. She had no idea the things that went on in my home but when I came to her classroom I felt safe, loved, and important. When I left Calhoun Elementary I never forgot her and I talked about her often. When I became an adult I had the pleasure of returning to Calhoun to emcee pageants. I made sure to let the crowd know who my favorite teacher was and the crowd seemed to agree she was amazing. Word got back to her and she sent me this message on Facebook;
So sorry I missed our county pageants last week. I heard you did an excellent job!! I saw a friend of mine at the post office yesterday. She said you mentioned me and I was truly touched. I knew when you were in kindergarten you were a very special little girl and you would do great things. I also loved your sweet mother. I am so proud of you an outstanding radio host, a loving mother to such sweet kiddos, a devoted wife, and a beautiful lady!! I couldn't be more proud. Thanks so much for your kind words-it made my day!!
I am so absolutely grateful for each educator who took the time to mold me into the woman I am today. It was no easy feat. I was a lot. They definitely did not get paid near enough!
HAPPY TEACHER APPRECIATION DAY TO ALL THE TEACHERS READING THIS! YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN ALL YOU DO.