Jess Shut Up
I was not a good student. Big surprise, right? To be totally honest, for years the comment card on my report card read: Very good student, does not perform to potential, just does enough to get by. They were right, although I did not realize that till later in life.
So what did they see that I did not way back then? I’m not sure, but I do know this: if I could go back and do it again, I would take school a lot more seriously.
All my teachers were good, but there are a few I want to recognize as having a very significant impact on me that changed the way I saw myself. All teachers have my utmost respect.
I am going to start with my third-grade teacher, Leon Johnson (who was present for both of my hacks in school). He was one of the nicest teachers I have ever been around, but he was also a no-nonsense teacher that gave me many chances to succeed. When I did not take advantage of those opportunities, there were consequences; I may not have then, but I do now respect him for that. What is most impressive about him is that he was a teacher first, but he had another love too — photography. Somewhere along the line in his life he made the switch, and photos and videos became his career. He was a success in that too. As a matter of fact, he still operates that business and thrives. He showed me that a career does not define you as a person and that you should follow your dreams whereever they take you.
In high school I met three teachers that would change my life forever as a student, and as young adult for that matter. Mr. Curtis, Mr. Tom Johnson and Mrs. Anderson; all three changed the way I look at education and teachers in general. I could say a lot of things about Mr. Tom Johnson that were great about him but one moment sticks out to me most. In English there were a bunch of us who were just not getting it. I can’t remember what it was, but half the class was just not getting it, while the other half had it down pat. Well, instead of moving on, he made sure we all got it before he moved on. It had to be very frustrating for the other kids as he stuck with it for a whole week until the rest of us were at the same level as the rest. That simple moment stuck with me and I still dwell on it. Most of our teachers had a lesson plan to stick to and they did. Johnson at that moment made sure “No One got left behind.”
Mr. Curtis was my senior year psychology teacher. I learned how to take notes. Very simple. If you took notes and studied them, you passed. Plus I loved the class. I still take notes to this day the way he taught us to and I have passed a lot of classes since then, thanks to his note detail. Plus, Mr. Curtis went to Natural Helpers with me and I learned that teachers are people too. He was one of the few adults that actually wanted to listen to kids’ problems and try and give them advice.
My favorite teacher was Mrs. Anderson. I know a lot of you kids that have had her as a sub recently just said “WHAT!” I had her in junior high and in high school and I love her still to this day. She was hard nosed, and made you work. But she also gave you credit when you succeeded. But it was in journalism that she showed me something that would be invaluable to me the rest of my life. She showed me I had a passion for writing and that I had a voice that someone just might want to listen to, er, well, read. When I got sick and could not be a firefighter anymore, I ran into her one day and she gave me some advice that I bet she did not even know she was offering. With that little bit of encouragement, from a teacher that had not taught me for many years, I found my voice again. Because of that, you are reading this column and I am writing a book. Thank You, Mrs. A.
Teachers everywhere, I commend you; you do not have an easy job, you do not get the credit you deserve. But you never quit teaching, even if you’re not in the classroom anymore. I respect that. Thanks to you all.