I am in my 12th year as a teacher and we are now entering Teacher Appreciation Week. This year, I’d like to take the time to thank one teacher – someone who still influences my daily life and without whom I wouldn’t have the tools to make it through every day. While reflecting on the teachers of my past, it occurred to me that I actually have a list too long to publish. Mrs. Tita, my kindergarten teacher, who was my inspiration and motivation for a life teaching kindergarten. Mr. Nuthall, my high school English teacher, who showed me that just because I came from a small, rural town in a graduating class of 25 students it didn’t mean I couldn’t do great things. His equally talented wife, my Spanish teacher, who opened my world to new cultures, languages, and ideas. Mr. A, our high school band director who asked me to try new instruments and songs and took our band on our first trip. However, I know those teachers know how important they were to me because I haven’t ever let them forget it.
Today, I want to thank one of my college professors because, without her, I don’t think I would have made it past 5 years in the field of education. Kathy Dorr was part of a unique program at my college, Western Washington University, in Bellingham, WA. The program brought in “real-life” teachers on sabbatical for a year or two from the elementary or high school classroom to teach beginning courses in education. We balanced our coursework with philosophy and current research into best practices just like most schools of education do. However, what Kathy brought to our education was current, real life issues about what was working – and not working – in the classroom.
Kathy opened her arms to bright-eyed, bushy tailed not-yet-teachers. She saw our hope and optimism and our naive “WE will be the ones to change the world” glow. Kathy helped us channel that energy into lesson plans, classroom management tricks, and loving children. She also let us in on the tragedy surrounding education. Yes, she warned, you are getting yourself into a political field. Yes, she added, it will be the most challenging job you will ever have. Yes, you will cry and most of you will give up before you have been doing it for 5 years. We were waiting for the, “But, you do it because you love the children.” There was no but. This is the job, she let us know. You will be creative, and joyful, and hard-working, and it will drain you. So take it or leave it – welcome to the world of education.
Kathy read to us the latest and greatest children’s literature. She brought in former students as guest speakers so they could tell us what they thought was most important for teachers to know. Kathy was upset with the swing of the education pendulum. She was heartbroken by the abuse she saw on a regular basis. Through it all, she showed up. She showed up every day when she was a teacher in an elementary classroom and she showed up every day to guide us through the tough times. It is one thing to set someone out on a difficult path with a pat on the back and good luck and quite another to walk the tough journey with you. Kathy did this regardless of whether she was teaching 10 year olds or 20 year olds.
On my toughest days, I think of Kathy. I remember how she showed up and I am resolved to keep doing the same. We’re not in this for the money and we certainly aren’t in this for any sort of fame. We are in this because someone needs to do the hard work of education. Thank you Kathy Dorr for educating every day.