Tuesday, June 14, 2011

No Better Time Than The Present to Say Thank You to Our Teachers

Shane and Ms. Moon
It is mid-June and my six-year-old son, Shane, is getting ready to transition from Kindergarten at his private Christian school to First Grade in the public school district of Hermosa Beach, Calif..

The hefty price tag of the private school for the last two years has been well worth it and afforded Shane a strong core foundation for his primary education.  Shane had a little bit of a bumpy transition going from Pre-school to Pre-K; however, with the help of his teacher Ms. Chang last year, he excelled by leaps and bounds during the second half of the year. 

Shane also benefited from Ms. Helen, who has been his Teacher’s Aid for the last two years.  I can honestly say that Shane – along with all the other children – love Ms. Helen.  She helped the kids with their projects, homework, read many books to her students, all with endless patience.  She actually resigned last month so that she and her husband could retire to Arizona.  School just isn’t the same for Shane without Ms. Helen.

But with all the amazing support, Shane started this year off strong and has continued to amaze and impress us – as well as his Kindergarten teacher Ms. Moon. 

Shane is extremely fortunate to have had Ms. Moon this year.  She is fresh out of college so this was her first year teaching.  Can you say fresh and inspired? She said it was monumental for her because – at one time – her own mother was a teacher at Journey of Faith.  The exuberance that she has had in teaching our children has beyond impressed our family as well as others.  It is obvious that the children adore her but it is not without tolerance and a certain level of discipline from her.

As I have said to anyone who will listen, Ms. Moon is that teacher whom Shane will remember for the rest of his life. Also, she is probably the only teacher that he will ever ask for a sleepover.

So with all of these impending school changes, I have started to reminisce about my own education in a school system not unlike Hermosa Beach.

I can still remember the sweet smell of fresh paint on the walls every September when I returned to my elementary school from summer break; or the sound of our sneakers squeaking on the wood floor of the gymnasium.  If I try really hard, I can almost pretend I can feel the exhilaration of the impending summer vacation.  Unfortunately, a reality check reminds me that I’m no longer a carefree kid. (Bummer!) But I can live vicariously through Shane.

But, more important than the sounds and smells of my primary education are the teachers and other school faculty who made a significant difference in my life. 

From day one there was Mrs. Foster, my kindergarten teacher.  She taught me all about the alphabet by introducing me to her 26 friends – Miss A to Mr. Z.  There was also Mrs. Cottrell, my third-, fourth- and fifth-grade teacher who, to my horror, moved up a grade with me and my classmates every year.  Although she was not my favorite because she was demanding, Mrs. Cottrell taught me the most.

It wasn’t, however, just my teachers that made an impression.  Mr. Shannon, the school janitor, and his wife were a childless, elderly couple who lived only a few blocks from the school.  They were well-liked by the students as well as the adults in our tiny seaside community of Ocean Grove, NJ.  We lived in a different era then and, it wouldn’t be odd, to find a group of students at their home each day after school. 

Mr. Shannon’s favorite hobby was making ceramic figurines.  He would hand out orange pumpkin figurines in the fall and red and white Santas at Christmas time – he always had enough for all the students.  I remember that his wife baked the best chocolate chip cookies and that was probably the reason why most of us ended up at his house each day.
My classmates and I adored him so much that we wrote a song about him.  I can still remember the words to it 30 years later.

As the years passed, we moved on to new teachers at the middle school and became too busy to visit the Shannons.  In high school, the elementary school memories were replaced by the stress of geometry, dissecting frogs, and dealing with our raging hormones.

Then, one day, I noticed a for sale sign at the Shannon’s home.  I was amazed because, even though I didn’t see them every day, I just assumed that they would always be there.
A few days later, I found out that Mr. Shannon had died and Mrs. Shannon had gone to live in a home for the elderly.

I have always been sad because I never got the chance to say goodbye.
To avoid feeling completely at a loss, I think it is so important to embrace the positive memories of those you have lost.

So one thing I will always remember about Mr. Shannon were his corny jokes. My friends and I would always have these incredulous looks on our faces; I mean, could one person be that corny.  Although, it was the 70s and we all remember what sitcom TV was like back then.  Do I need to say more than, “Dynomite!”

Despite the economic challenges that face the Hermosa Beach School District with budget cuts from Sacramento, I am excited for Shane to begin his rite of passage going from his little private school to his “Big Boy” school.  Hermosa has a reputation for its amazing teachers and, despite money woes and what the future holds, I know that Shane will shine.

So, in honor of the end of the school year, I would like to encourage everyone to recognize our teachers for who they are and the doors of knowledge and opportunity that they open for our children.

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