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May 29, 2014
From fourth grade through high school, I was given a Catholic school education, where the majority of my teachers were nuns. I have read all the books and laughed knowingly at the jokes about what life in Catholic school was like. I will not deny that I had some fairly stern “Sisters,” who could scare the living daylights out of a group of students with just one look. Nevertheless, I will always affirm that my overall education was excellent.
I have fond memories of several teachers: When I am writing, Sister Bernadette pops up—she would never allow that comma! When I am reading, Sister Mary Sean sits on my shoulder—she would love this story! Most especially when I am praying in the synagogue, all the sisters are listening to my Hebrew—for it was them who taught me about faith and the power of prayer.
It was that education that enabled me to search and question, read everything I could get my hands on, find new teachers and move into far different worlds than I would have imagined possible. I recognize that I stand on a foundation built by my teachers, teachers I found everywhere: in parents, siblings, friends, nuns, professors, my spouse, rabbis, colleagues, everyday interactions with ordinary people and even my own children.
I have great respect, awe and gratitude for all the individuals who have shared the gift of knowledge with me. My life has been blessed by the knowledge and wisdom imparted in each interaction. I have tried to impart that same respect and gratitude to my children.
In this last month of the school year, show your children’s teachers how much you appreciate them. While sports figures, corporate executives and others are being paid those 10-figure salaries, they are not shaping the future of our country—at least I hope they aren’t! Have your child hand-make and sign a card for their teacher telling them how much they learned this year. Honor these wise and noble men and women with a simple, but heartfelt, “Thank you!” It will mean so much.
Here is a list of outstanding books that honor teachers:
Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea.
©2010. Delacorte Press. Ages 9-14.
At the beginning of fifth grade, it appears that the teacher, Mr. Terupt, understands the inner workings of each kid in the classroom. He makes learning fun for everyone from the most uninterested student to the highest achiever. Then an accident occurs that changes everything, and the students have to learn to cope with unthinkable possibilities.
Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden by Edith Pattou. Illustrated by Tricia Tusa.
©2001. Harcourt, Inc. Ages 3-8.
Mrs. Spitzer is a teacher. Every year, the principal of the school gives her a packet of seeds, and using all the tools at her disposal, Mrs. Spitser carefully tends those seeds, nurturing each individual and special flower until they are ready to show their face to the sun. This exquisite allegory of an extraordinary teacher is beautifully illustrated with pen and watercolor drawings.
My New Teacher and Me! by Al Yankovic. Illustrated by Wes Hargis.
©2013. HarperCollinsPublishers. Ages 6-10.
Mr. Booth, a new teacher, wants to stick to his very strict curriculum and his many rules. But when he meets Billy, a pupil with a wild imagination, they enter into an amazing test of wills. Can Billy convince Mr. Booth that his stories of a backyard dinosaur skull, two-headed cows, a moon-walking grandfather and more are true?
Thank You, Mr. Falker. ©1998. The Junkyard Wonders. ©2010. The Art of Miss Chew. ©2012.
Written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco. G.P. Putnam’s Sons. Ages 7-10.
Patricia Polacco, the popular author/illustrator of so many outstanding children’s books, had a very difficult childhood. She was in fifth grade before an understanding and knowledgeable teacher understood that she was dyslexic and could not read. These three books are tributes to the teachers who changed Ms. Polacco’s life by teaching her how to read, giving her self-confidence and helping her finding her artistic eye. We should all be so lucky to have teachers like these in our lives.