The following “quiz” has been published in books and can be found all over the internet. It is attributed to the cartoonist Charles Schulz, who drew Snoopy and Charlie Brown for many years. An inquiry to the Charles Schulz Museum has proven that the quiz is NOT something he said, however, it does make an amazing point and is a good starting point for today’s blog.
Here’s the first quiz:
- Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
- Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
- Name the last five winners of the Miss America contest.
- Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer prize.
- Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
- Name the last decade’s worth of World Series winners.
How did you do?
The facts are, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.
Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:
- List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
- Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
- Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
- Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
- Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
- Name half a dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you.
The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care.
When I look back on my life, there are many teachers that have made a difference in my life. Some of them are no longer around, and some of them, I am lucky to still be in contact with. Today, I salute some of them.
Mrs. Waters – Kindergarten.
Back when I was a kid, you didn’t have all of these levels of preschool to go through. Kindergarten was your first stop. It was the first time you were away from mom and dad. I wish I could remember more about kindergarten than I do, but what I do remember is that Mrs. Waters was one of the sweetest ladies and she was always smiling. I remember it was either Mother’s Day or Father’s Day and we had to each paint something for Mom or Dad. I had a floppy “paint shirt” which was one of my dad’s old shirts and I remember she took a picture of each student in this shirt and sent a black and white 5X7 of it home. Sadly, it is probably long gone. I remember before she took the picture she came over and fixed my hair and said, “we want mom and dad to see those beautiful brown eyes of yours”. Probably the one and only moment from kindergarten I remember.
Mrs. Cook – Second Grade.
Why is she so important? We moved in the middle of second grade. I was leaving all of my friends behind and starting new. I remember my dad taking me to school that day and we were in the office as the National Anthem was playing. I was taken down to the room and Mrs. Cook walked over to get me at the door. She brought me up in front of the class and had me introduce myself. I know this is hard to believe, especially with all the public speaking have done in the past, but I was scared to death. All these kids were looking at me. She helped me by asking me questions, letting me answer, and then asked the class if they had questions. I don’t recall if they did, but she made that whole experience so much less stressful for me.
Mrs. Gallop – Fourth Grade.
She was fun. I would have to say that my love for reading probably came from her. I remember how reading was such an important part of class. I recall her reading us “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing”, “SuperFudge” and “James and the Giant Peach”. She was so animated as she read to us each day. She loved reading and we loved hearing her read. One of the first chapter books I got for my sons was “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing”. I remember in “James and the Giant Peach” there was a swear word. To be honest, I don’t recall what it was, but she warned us. She tried to play it off. When she read it, there was shock then giggles. Mrs. Gallop swore!!! She kept reading as animated as ever. When I took my sons to see the play at the Flint Youth Theater not too long ago, I remembered sitting around on small pieces of carpet listening to the story.
Mrs. Kellogg – 7th Grade.
I just loved her! She was no nonsense, and yet enjoyed a little nonsense at times. I was lucky enough to have her for 7th and 8th grade for English. She was tough and I learned a lot about writing because of her. She also was instrumental in getting me to be proactive about working. Yeah, I was not very self-motivated at this point in my life. We were supposed to be doing some quiet reading, and I think I was staring off out the window or something and she called my name and said, “Don’t just sit there like a Willie Lump Lump! Get your eyes on the book!” Well, Willie Lump Lump was a Red Skelton character, who I knew because my dad let us listen to old radio shows. I laughed at this and a special bond was created. I never wanted to disappoint her, and I took initiative to get my work done.
She is also responsible for a yearly tradition for me. We read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in 7th and 8th grade. I have read it every year since. I kept in contact with her long after she retired and sadly, I lost her address in between moves. She passed away before I had the chance to reconnect with her. She was a fine example of a caring teacher.
Mr. Harvey – 9th Grade.
I was probably the worst algebra student. I got sick and missed about two weeks of school. When I returned I had no clue what we were doing. I tanked quizzes and tests and we were closing in on the finals. He asked me to stay after class and asked what was up. I told him that I was just lost. He told me he was worried that I was not going to pass the class. He offered to stay after school with me to reteach some of the things I was confused about. Needless to say, there was a lot I was confused about and he realized it right away. He asked why I didn’t ask for help. He worked with me and I squeaked by with a D. Not a proud moment, but it would have been an E for sure if he hadn’t gone out of his way to help.
Mr. Benefield – 9th Grade.
Remember that scene in Stripes when John Candy says as a kid he “swallowed a lot of aggression … along with a lot of pizzas”? That was me. Gym class was not my favorite because I was overweight and never felt like I could do what everyone else was doing. Mr. B was fair. He knew when I was slacking and all he had to say was my name and I would kick it up a notch. Gym class was not like your other classes where there were 25 kids – there were double that or more in gym. If he was calling me out – it wasn’t because he was being mean, it was because he knew I wasn’t giving all that HE knew I was capable of. Side note – he was one of the best damn football coaches our school has ever had!
Mr. Balos – 12th Grade.
Ok, I had him for a senior elective class called Life in America, and it wasn’t a very hard class, but I still learned a lot from him. First of all, he taught us the importance of history. Granted this was entertainment history, but it was still history. Second, he knew that hard work had to be balanced with a little fun. He always wrapped up class five minutes before the bell and told us a “story”. These “stories” were jokes older than he was. While there were many kids who either groaned or stared off dumbfounded because they didn’t get the punch line … I was always laughing like hell. He once said “A bad joke is ALWAYS worth sharing”. It is – throughout life, some of the most awkward situations I have been in were always made a bit less stressful because I told one of his “stories”. I also learned a lot about golf from him and I can hear him every time I get on the tee … “the ball is seven feet long”.
Mr. Yanoulaki – 12th Grade.
As I stated already, I sucked at math. I was lucky enough to have Mr. Y for math in 12th grade. I want to say that the class was called “Math for Life” or “Math for Everyday Living” or something like that. It was the class I felt everyone should have. In it we talked about figuring out gas mileage, how to balance a checkbook, learning to calculate volume and measurements, how to calculate percentages, and a whole lot of other things that I use every day. He was very energetic – it was like he had ADD. He was always moving from the time he walked in to class until class was over. Many people tried to take advantage of him and make fun of him, but I really thought he was great. He was such a genuine man. He knew when people were toying with him and often just ignored them. Sometimes people would push him a bit too far and it would make him angry. Respect is something that many of my classmates did not have. He could be very fun, but when it was time to work – that’s what we needed to do. It was when someone decided to try to get him talking about something off topic that he’d get mad. He did not have any issues having someone removed from class because of things like this. I think many just pushed him so they WOULD get kicked out. I have remained in touch with him after all these years and he is still doing well and as energetic and healthy as ever. His nephew is my chiropractor and we’re hoping to get together for coffee one day soon.
Mr. Shaner 9th-12th Grade.
Mr. Shaner was my band director. If you are looking for my stance on Music Education in schools – here it is. “I LEARNED MORE TO PREPARE ME FOR LIFE FROM BAND CLASS THAN ANY OTHER CLASS IN SCHOOL”. There. I said it. I learned the importance of preparation. I learned the importance of punctuality. I learned the importance of practice. I learned the importance of team work. I learned the importance of organization. I learned the importance of patience. All of my time management skills came directly from band class. I learned about discipline and work ethic. I learned the importance of cooperation and respect. The list goes on and on. The lessons that I took from band class in itself can be an entire blog.
I recall one day in 9th grade, I was running late for school. I grabbed a pair of khaki pants from a basket that was in the laundry room. I walked into school and TS said “Hey, man, you know an iron can get those wrinkles out of your slacks”. Now some people might think this was mean. I didn’t take it that way. Instead, it made me aware of little things like looking good. It was a simple nudge to take an extra minute to dress right.
It was not odd for him to call someone in the office and ask if everything was ok if they looked like something was bothering them. Sometimes he would get wind of a situation someone was dealing with and he would be aware that there was a lesson in it for everyone. He would just tell some story in class with the lesson at the end and it did two things – it helped the person in the situation AND it helped the rest of us in case that situation ever popped up in our lives.
I remember one time Steve and I were goofing off during a rehearsal. It was the day before festival, so it was not the time to be fooling around. He stopped the band and asked us what was so funny. Because we did not have an answer he pointed to the door and said “I’ll see you after rehearsal”. We sat at the end of the hall and pondered how much trouble we were going to get into not only with him but with our folks. He sent Kelly, the band president down to the end of the hall to get us. He looked at us dead in the eye and said “I did not want you to go with us to festival tomorrow, but the band as a whole voted and said you should come”. He proceeded with the rehearsal. The following day, I was the first to arrive in the band room. He greeted me with a smile and I was completely confused. He was SO angry the day before. I asked if he had a second and he said to follow him to his office. He sat down and looked at me, like he had no idea why I was there. I apologized for my behavior the previous day and told him it would never happen again. He stared at me for a few seconds and got up quickly (which scared the hell out of me). He extended his hand and said, “It takes a lot of guts to admit when you are wrong. It takes a real man to apologize. Thank you for taking responsibility for your actions. I have a lot of respect for you.” He took it a step further and made sure the entire band knew what happened. He said he thought that they should know that I cared enough about them to apologize for my actions. Talk about respect? I have the utmost respect for that man and all of the lessons I still carry with me to this day. I am glad that we have remained in contact all these years later. He was a major influence in my life and in the lives of many students.
Christine, Michele, and Angie – College.
It would not be fair for me to write about teachers if I did not mention these three ladies. They were the instructors in college for my sleep program. Each of them taught differently and with different styles, but they still got the information to me. You know that saying “Learning can be fun”? They made it fun. But wait…it was college. I was late to the college party as I didn’t go until I was over 40. Everything I had seen about college had big classes with serious teachers who took no BS. While we learned, we laughed. There were plenty of funny stories and we learned from them. And each one of them cared for their students. Never once was I turned away if I had a question about something we learned in class. If I didn’t understand, they would go over it and over it until I DID understand. Sure there were other classes I had to take in college, but these classes and these three wonderful ladies – who I also call my friends – helped me to walk across a stage with a college degree … something I NEVER thought I was capable of doing.
There are many more teachers I can mention (and knowing me, probably will in future blogs), I want to say thanks to each and every teacher who was a part of my school years. You made a difference. You should be applauded and commended for the work you do. The many hours of your own time that you spent grading papers. The extra time you took to help that one student who was struggling. The money that you spent out of your own pocket to get something for your class. You may never know the influence that you had on a student, but I am here to tell you on their behalf that you did make an impact and to thank you.
If you are a teacher in the classroom setting today, whether it is grade school, high school, or college. You are one of the most important people in this country. YOU matter. YOU are helping tomorrow’s scientists dream. You are helping feed the doctors of tomorrow wisdom. You are shaping our future. I thank you!