Among the Luckiest

One of my high school teachers passed away last week.

He impacted my education career in a huge way. I had him for Civics my freshmen year of high school, then he long termed subbed for government my senior year. Prior to that he was the principal in my elementary school.

He was so knowledgeable about social sciences, and talked about these abstract concepts-I mean civics and government aren’t the most relatable to a teenager-in a way that made them both interesting and understandable.

But more than that? He genuinely cared for his students.

I remember distinctly that about once a week, he would ask me, a known book worm, what book I was reading this week. He listened to my brief synopsis and how I felt about it, making sure I felt genuinely seen and heard: and not an ounce ridiculed for my love of reading.

He was fair, understanding, and compassionate. The best traits in a teacher or administrator.

After I heard about his passing, I was thinking about all these things and how lucky I was in my education.

Mr. Knisple is just one example of the outstanding teachers I was lucky to have in a small South Dakota school.

My science teacher was so knowledgeable. She easily could have taught a college level biology course. My computers teacher taught me all I needed to know and more. My math teacher taught hard concepts to even me, who couldn’t care less about math. My English teacher is why I chose to become an educator.

Overall, these teachers were so smart, so content saavy, that I had no problem in my gen eds in college because of the information they had given us.

But the thing that made some of them stand out even more, was the care and love they showed for us.

My science teacher knew our dreams, our personalities, our strengths and weaknesses. My English teacher hugged me once when I was crying in the hallway. Most of these people came to my wedding, or sent cards. My English teacher sent me a letter when I accepted my first teaching position: one I have in my desk because her words continue to have such an impact on me.

Small schools get a bad rap. Due to funding, lack of accessibility, and other issues, they can’t offer the same classes that bigger schools do. I couldn’t take dual credits back then, and AP was definitely not something that they offered us.

But, my education was just as good if not better as big town kids had access too. And, I felt loved and seen by my teachers, which gave me the confidence to be the kind of teacher I wanted to be.

When I think about who I am as a teacher, I think about these people. How well they knew their subject area; how well they knew their students.

I feel lucky to have had the education that I did. My teachers weren’t perfect, but they were amazing educators. My experience was far from picture perfect: small school drama seems to be a different kind, but I came out with an idea of who I wanted to be in a profession that I was given the best examples of.

I don’t know if I live up to them, but I know that’s something I strive to bring into my classroom each and every day.

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