The picture is myself with Clark Harris, my high school science teacher I ran into at a local Branson restaurant. Seeing Mr. Harris brought back memories of sitting in his classroom of Human Physiology and Biology. I always looked forward to his classes. His enthusiasm for science was contagious, and his encouraging spirit always lifted me up.
Thinking of Mr. Harris, it brought back memories of many other teachers who influenced my life. Years ago, a former national teacher of the year, Guy Doud, wrote a book entitled, Molder of Dreams. The book focused on his own life growing up, and how teachers in his past harmed him with their words or lifted him up. He recalled how an English teacher in Junior High spoke words of encouragement to Guy, that he was talented and smart, and how that lifted him up to believe he was worthwhile.
Many teachers did that for me. Mrs. Trimble in Kindergarten brought me out of my little shell with her humor, kindness, and joy for life. Mrs. Osborn in second grade encouraged my heart with her kind and wise words, calm demeanor, and tender spirit. Mrs. Mayberry in the fifth grade challenged me when I was too full of myself but praised me when I humbled myself. Her laughter, infectious smile, and joy for life often spilled out as she danced on the playground. I remember the wonderful humor and boundless energy of Mr. Swaffer in art. I always admired his beard, and his creative, joy-filled spirit. I loved PE with Mrs. Caldwell, hearing her whistle to get our attention and even enjoying running the 600-yard dash around the playground on the road, though I never finished first.
In junior high I remember the calmness and kindness of Mrs. Powers, the strictness but enthusiastic fairness of Mrs. Oetting. I learned the joy of books and creativity from Mr. King in Reading class in 7th grade. I’ll never forget the day he walked up to me after class, putting a hand on my shoulder, and saying, “I haven’t met your parents, but they must be amazing parents to have raised a son like you.” Those words, forty-six years ago, still echo in the deep chambers of my soul.
I remember American History class with Coach Godfrey and running track for him. I always wanted to make Coach Godfrey proud and be like him. I remember the high-pitched voice of Coach Russell in PE, the tall, thin man with the Ozark Mountain drawl. I can still hear the melodic whistle of Mr. Cogdill, our junior high principal, as he walked down the hallway, smiling and calling me Stoney as he walked by. I remember Mr. Garner in history and student council, the trips I went with him and other students for stuco conventions. His calmness and kindness encouraged my heart and gave me a compass of the kind of person I wanted to be.
In high school I remember dancing the jig for Mrs. Cogdill, our typing teacher, when she was having a bad day or dealing with one of her frequent headaches. It always warmed my heart to make her smile. I remember Mr. Gertson in Vocabulary Development, his gentle, booming voice, and his warm laughter. I remember loving government class and student council with Miss Lamar. She always encouraged us and believed the best in her students. I remember PE with Coach Harmon and being involved in FCA with him, having breakfast with him and others at the Rustic Oak. Coach Harmon showed me what it meant to be a tender warrior for Christ by his words and example.
These teachers and coaches, and many others over the years, helped shape me into the person I’m trying to be today. I was blessed to have several educators who were molders of dreams in my life, and countless others.
Today, I serve with Young Life, a Christian organization that reaches out to youth from Junior High years to College Years. I’m learning that some of the most important people to get to know and, if possible, get involved in our outreach to youth, are Jesus-loving, kid-loving educators. My dear friend, Pete Fritsch, who retired from Young Life a few years back, has started a ministry to educators called Appleseed. Through my friendship with Pete, I’m learning more and more the profound impact educators can have on the lives of students.
I just must go down my only memory trail as I’ve done in this writing to see this is so true.
Who are teachers who have impacted your life? Maybe you should reach out to them and thank them today!