Thank You, Teachers!
Each May, Teacher Appreciation Week reminds us to pause and think about all the teachers we have had throughout our lives who formed us into who we are today. Many teachers challenged us, encouraged us, cared for us, and grew with us.
Thinking all the way back to 1st grade, I remember a kind-faced, smiling, short woman with stark, black hair welcoming us all in. Her name was Ms. Youkhana. A mere five years old, I didn’t know what to expect other than that I wanted homework. I have two older twin sisters, both of whom would regularly come home from school with a math worksheet to do, or a few pages to read. I so badly wanted the same, having no idea the extent of the homework I’d be assigned in the years to come. As 1st grade progressed, I began reading the Harry Potter series. I’ll admit I was whizzing through the chapters alarmingly fast–so fast that Ms. Youkhana asked that I sit down with her after each chapter to quickly summarize what happened. She was incredibly supportive of my determination and motivation to learn and did everything she could to help me along the way.
Ms. Carr, a wonderful, bright-eyed older woman, served as our long-term 4th grade sub, as our teacher had her baby at the beginning of the school year. Ms. Carr regularly spent her money on doughnuts for the class, just so we could start our day with a smile. She was patient, open-minded, and amazingly tolerant of the jokesters in my class. She made each of us feel loved and special.
Señora Young, our Spanish teacher 3rd-5th grade, was brilliant, strong-minded, and hilarious. She made conquering a new language seem easy, teaching us vast amounts both linguistically and culturally very quickly. She pushed us to learn as much as we could yet kept her classroom an enjoyable learning environment.
Mr. Stewart, my 5th grade math teacher, was a goofy, heavy-set guy and an avid Chicago Bulls fan. Mr. Stewart put the class at ease with his quick-witted humor and made each student feel valued, heard, and intelligent. He taught us PEMDAS and how to solve for x, willing to go over tons of example problems and try other ways of explaining more difficult concepts.
Mr. Thomas, our 7th grade English teacher, was heavily opinionated and even goofier than Mr. Stewart. Mr. Thomas emphasized the importance of taking a stance on important issues and developing the skills of vocalizing your thoughts and advocating for your position. We regularly held debates in his class, many of which have stuck with me today, 7 years later. We performed rants and raves in front of our small, 15-person class, subtly learning to value releasing our emotions and coming to understand our irks and passions.
These five are only a few of the teachers who have made quite an impact on me over the years. The list goes on and on. These teachers, all of whom taught me in grades 1-8, were (or still are) employed at Sacred Heart School, a small, private, Catholic school in the suburbs of Chicago. Catholic schoolteachers in Illinois are severely underpaid; they make significantly less than their public-school counterparts, and yet these teachers remain deeply enthusiastic and passionate. Each one showed up every day, ready and excited to teach. Especially after the educational trauma the pandemic brought, I am confident we’ve all come to realize how vital and special our teachers are.
Teachers, thank you SO much for all your hard work–we see and appreciate you!
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