by Maria Schulz
Now that Summer is in full swing, it got me to thinking about everything teachers do for us. I know I could never handle the day-in and day-out life of a teacher, what with the crying, backstabbing, and childish demands that go on every day. And that’s just from the parents and administrators.
Are some teachers lazy or terrible at their jobs? Of course! But most teachers deserve our admiration and not our anger.
We look at Asian countries and say, “Why can’t we replicate their success?” Well, we can, but first we would have to revere and honor our teachers, instead of attacking and blaming them.
Besides teaching children their academics, teachers help us learn things about ourselves, others, and our place in the world. So, with that thought in mind, I thought I’d share the best things I learned from my teachers.
The Top 12 Things My Teachers Taught Me
1. It’s easy to be kind. Back in kindergarten, my teacher decided to have us put on a circus. Everyone was very excited and got to work making their masks. Unlike my classmates, I was not in the least bit artistic, so my elephant mask was a wreck. The trunk didn’t stick out, the ears were all wrong, and it looked more like a giant rat’s head then an elephant’s head. Since my mask was a disaster, I decided to sit the parade out. I was pretty sad about it. But miracle of miracles, Ms. Coblenz saw me struggling and on the day of the parade, she handed me a perfect mask. “Is this mask yours?” she said, and winked at me. “It is now,” I replied, and joined the parade. She didn’t change the world that day—but she sure changed mine.
2. Life can be an adventure if you stop hiding. When Sister Barbara came to take me away from my mother and brother at orientation on the first day of 1st grade, I screamed like she was a Nazi prison camp guard and I was that kid in Sophie’s Choice. I think you can still hear the shrieking in the halls today.
Sister Barbara held my hand and guided me down the hall to our classroom. She had to be my eyes since I was hiding my face in my sleeve. Sister led me to my desk, where I promptly buried my head in my hands and sobbed. Sister B. just patted my head gently and went about her business.
Eventually, she got to my name on the attendance list, saying “Mary Anne Legoliati?” I stopped crying long enough to correct her. “It’s Maria Lagalante. Not Mary Anne and NOT Legoliatti.”
“Oh, thanks for teaching me your name. Welcome to my class!” she said, with a big smile.
I stopped crying and looked around. Some people looked as terrified as me and some looked thrilled to be there. Sister Barbara kept showing us all the great things about our class: the big blackboard, the erasers that two lucky kids got to go outside and clap, and the doors that slid open so that we could join the class next door. That was where my brother Chris was, and I missed him sorely.
Sister Barbara made everything an adventure, whether we were learning our ABCs or making new friends. She was kind and patient and the perfect 1st grade teacher for a terrified little kid like me.
3. Be Prepared. And Wear Socks. Mrs. Heaphy taught me to always come prepared, no matter what. That’s because she ran the School’s supply closet, where you were sent when you had the nerve to enter school without your marble notebook or #2 pencil. If you had to buy something from her, it cost about 300% more then going to Coronette’s down on Bell Blvd. That’s because Mrs. Heaphy marked everything up at Black Market prices.
I also learned the importance of always wearing socks since she embarrassed my brother when he showed up without them.
4. Too Much of a Good Thing Is Usually Bad. Mrs. McGovern was a really fun 2nd grade teacher. But by the time she became my 4th and 5th grade teacher, she was as sick of us as we were of her. You always knew who her favorites were going to be (not me) and what kind of projects and tests you were in for. By the time we got to the 5th grade, the boys weren’t dropping their pencils on the floor to peer up her mini skirt anymore. We had seen it all.
5. Some People Just Seem Rotten. I was afraid of Sister Clara for many reasons. One, she looked like she could take me out with a beefy right hook. Two, she liked to constantly threaten to box my ears. And three, she reduced my class of 10-year-olds to spineless puddles by saying, “you might go home for lunch today and find your mother and father dead.”
I think her point was that we should cherish the people we love every moment of the day. Unfortunately, most of the kids in my class just thought she knew something we didn’t.
The Summer after her premonition, I rode past the library and saw Sister Clara struggling to stack books on the shelves. She had fallen behind the boiler and broken her arm. (why you had to walk through the boiler room and into the library I was never sure, but I’m surprised none of us kids ever got burned or trapped). She had a cast on up to her elbow, so I stopped in and asked if she needed help.
“Why yes! Thank you!”
I spent the next week helping her clean and organize the library. Sister Clara was actually a very sweet, gracious lady with a good sense of humor. I couldn’t believe this was the same person who scared the daylights out of me during the school year.
6. Some people just stink. Sister Margaret taught me that some people are not interested in being fair or making school fun, and only want to share their misery with you. And most definitely, some people should never be teachers.
7. Believe in yourself, even when some people don’t. One of my Catholic school English teachers was never really a fan of my writing style. I would work hard on projects and think they were sure A’s, and get them back with comments like “I can see you worked very hard on this. Good job. C+.” I have to thank her though, because it just made me work harder.
8. Life is better when cake is involved. Let me preface this by saying that I liked Sister Felicity. However, being in her class was like having a large Pit Bull up front with a habit on. You never knew when Sister was going to succumb to an avalanche of rage and you were going to be caught in her unrelenting jaws.
However, I cracked the code when I discovered that she loved cake. Lots and lots of cake! I used to bake and bring cake up to school all the time. Chocolate cake, pound cake, strawberry shortcake, cupcakes. You name the cake, I probably baked it and brought it up to Sister Pit Bull.
Cake made her smile, which was definitely an improvement. It sure beat getting sent to sit alone in the closet or being dragged out into the hall to get yelled at by all of my other teachers.
9. Always leave them laughing. My high school biology teacher taught me the importance of a sense of humor. Most of what he taught was dry and dull, but he always broke me up. If he took us to lab class and asked us to sniff sulfur, one of us would invariably say, “This smells!” and he would reply, “No, you smell. This stinks!”
Early on in the year, we realized that he was dressing differently on the day of his tests. In fact, the more dressed up he was, the harder the test was going to be. Flannel shirt and cowboy boots? Easy test. Suit and tie? Hard test. When he came in on the day of our Final dressed in a tuxedo, I thought my classmates and I would keel over.
10. Expect Respect. Miss Mackey taught me how to set high standards and lay down the law with a room full of arrogant honors students. She came down hard on anyone who defied her in the early days, and then loosened up later on. She allowed us to reign ourselves in and always treat her and the other teachers with respect. She even let us think it was our idea.
11. Demand more of yourself then anyone else. Along with a deep appreciation for beautiful writing and how to hone a razor sharp wit, Mr. Brodsky taught me how to succeed in any situation. Never miss a deadline. Never turn in junk. Never be afraid to use your sense of humor at any and all times, but be kind and caring as well.
12. Let your critics help you. My Catholic school experience left me believing that I had no talent in any area and even less possibilities open to me. But then I met Mr. Reines, my 9th and 10th grade English teacher. He insisted that I should only listen to my critics to take what I could use, and discard the rest.
When I think back to that utterly confusing time in my life, I see his smiling face and remember what it was to like to finally feel like my hard work would pay off. He was my guardian angel those years, getting me into contests and attending my awards nights, writing college recommendations for me, and helping me win college scholarships since he knew money was tight.
Besides teaching me how to love books, think critically and write cogently, he taught me how to become a better person through his example. As I became friends with him during what would be his last years, my little world opened up—and I will never forget him.
Angel Food Cake with Amaretto Berries
Did someone say cake? Normally, I’m a chocolate cake all the way girl, but recently I made an angel food cake with berries (and Amaretto) that I think even Sister Pit Bull would enjoy!
Angel Food Cake (boxed, scratch or bakery—your choice!)
Any berries you like
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons Amaretto
¼ tablespoon vanilla
¼ cup Confectioners’ Sugar
Cut up berries and place in bowl. Add all liquid ingredients; add sugar. Place berry sauce in refrigerator until ready to serve cake (a couple of hours should do it). If you prepared the cake, wait to serve until cool. Then pour berry mixture over the cake. Add whipped cream. You could also make this into a fancy dessert by alternating layers of cake, amaretto berries and whipped cream in a parfait glass. Enjoy!
So Hungry Lifers, here’s my question to you: what did your favorite (or least favorite) teacher help you discover? Please leave a comment below and let us all know. Thanks!