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Teachers: The apples of this pupil's eye

CHERYL TEVIS 07/28/2011 @ 1:43pm

My eighth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Kuhler, had bright blue eyes, a peaches-and-cream complexion, snowy-white hair, and a regal bearing. She reigned over my homeroom class with stately poise and grace.

Although she maintained a well-groomed stable of adages, she loved one in particular: “Time to get down to brass tacks!” We knew that Zoe Nora Kuhler expected us to outshine all of the other homeroom students put together.

She taught us to set high goals. But teaching is a thankless job. If thank-yous ever occur to students, it's often too late.

Sifting through my daughter's grade school papers, I found cards and drawings intended for teachers Alexa clearly adored.

Some of those teachers moved out of state or assumed new married names. Her beloved kindergarten teacher, Miss Challgren, was killed in a car accident.

I regret they never received this tangible evidence of their impact on Alexa's young life. Multiply this experience by countless others, and you can imagine how many words of thanks and appreciation never reach the teachers who were so inspirational.

This isn't surprising, says Gowrie, Iowa, literature teacher Deb Benton-Gevock. Five years ago she wrote and self-published a book, Celebrities Remember Their Favorite Teachers. “One universal problem is hardly any students tell their teacher how special he or she was and what a great influence that teacher had on their lives,” she says.

As I look back, it's clear that I only knew my teachers as one-dimensional figures. My grade school teachers seemed ancient. (Sorry, Mrs. Blatchford!) Now I know they weren't. Some were widowed; one sold encyclopedias in the summer to make ends meet.

A few teachers stand out because of their names or nicknames, such as Mr. Quirk. Others are memorable for their actual quirks and mannerisms. High school English and speech teacher C.C. Amana repeated time and time again, “Speak clearly, if you speak at all. Carve each word before you let it fall.”

Yet, as I've grown older, I've wondered what happened to them. Did they retire as veteran teachers? Change careers? Did they put down roots or pull up stakes? Did they have children?

It's unlikely anyone will ever write a sequel titled, Celebrity Teachers Remember Their Favorite Students. Nor will most teachers ever amass a fortune.

As a former school board member, I know that many teachers reach deep into their pockets to buy extras for their classrooms or to help their students learn. No one goes into teaching to be wealthy.

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