Guest Blogger Susanne Deitermann is the Director of Evaluation and Assessment at The Edge, and has been with us for four years. She is an avid fitness enthusiast, and loves good movies, books, and snacks.
My kindergarten teacher drove a Harley to school.
Maybe not a big story in today’s texting, blogging, tweeting, high tech 2011 world, but back in 1965—women didn’t really ‘don their leathers’ and hop on their Hogs. I recall my teacher telling us the story about how her husband purchased her the bike for Christmas. We all sat looking at Mrs. Griffin, mouths open, at the thought of her revving the engine on her new, shiny low rider.
We saw her in a whole new light. She was courageous, a risk-taker. Fun.
I went to Fuller Elementary School in southwest Minneapolis, not far from Lake Harriet. It was a great place to grow up, and I have to say, I had a happy childhood, thanks to my mom, my grandparents, my ‘Beck,’ my brothers—(well, kind of the best things about my older brother in high school—were his cute friends), and my teachers.
After my Harley-riding-paradigm-shifting-kindergarten-teacher, there was Miss Bonstrom, Mrs. Bendixen, Miss St. Clair, Miss Larson, and Mr. Krieser. I can see each of them in my mind, their mannerisms and their quirks, remember what they taught me, but mostly I remember how they made me feel.
Looking back now, one of my favorite memories is Miss Larson’s class. Each day she read aloud to us. For me, it was the best part of the day. There was one book that transported me from my 5th grade classroom to the mountains and cold of Norway during World War II. The book is called Snow Treasure, and I recently recommended it to a colleague—because her son was looking for a good book. She Googled the title, and after all of these years, the book is still receiving good reviews.
In junior high school, my favorite teacher was Mr. Zipoy. I was fortunate to run into him a few years ago. I remembered him right away—he looked the same, well-dressed—a crisply started shirt, wiry hair and white teeth. When I ran into him, I told him what a wonderful teacher he had been to me. I told him I remembered his class—that he used to staple Time Magazine covers to the ceiling. As students, we would look up and see where we’d been over the year. He was cool. Mr. Zipoy used to have me run the movie projector in his class. I had to learn to thread the film correctly through the machine, give it enough lead, wrap it around the big reel, and even splice the film when it broke. In other classes, it was just the boys who were taught how to run the projector. I remember how he made me feel. He made me feel capable. He made me feel smart.
We remember how teachers make us feel.
It was delightful to recall my experiences with him. I asked if he was still teaching and he said no, he had become a stock broker. Good for him, but not great for all of the students who missed out on Mr. Zipoy’s ability to teach, and to make his students feel capable and smart.
At the University of Minnesota, my favorite teacher was Dr. Samaha. He was a law professor, and taught Criminal Law. It was a big subject with some hefty reading assignments and lofty goals. On the first day of class, I recall thinking how he looked a bit like my dad—my dad, still one of the smartest men I’ve ever known. I also noted that Dr. Samaha’s body trembled and he had an unusual way of holding his head—like he couldn’t sit still.
He greeted each of us and requested we introduce ourselves, while spelling out his expectations for the class. Then, he said “I expect each of you to be in class every day. If I can get out of bed and come to class with this movement disorder that I tackle every day, I expect each and every one of you to be here. No excuses.”
I didn’t miss one class.
I loved his class, and I thrived through his ability to capture our attention through his use of storytelling. His expectations were high. Every time I spoke up in class, he would challenge me and expect me to think more deeply. He facilitated our discussions like a conductor leads an orchestra. Sometimes I would even catch him smiling as our discussions grew heated. I noticed his skill, and he noticed our engagement.
Recently, I checked to see if he is still teaching at “The U.”
I remember all of my teachers, so…
To all of the teachers who stay, to all of the teachers who go, to the teachers who read to us, challenge us, and show up each day. To the teachers who staple magazine covers to the ceiling, who listen to us, encourage us, and help us to believe in ourselves. To the teachers who drive Harleys, button our coats, tie our shoes, wipe our noses, and patiently show us. To the teachers who help make us brave, empathize, show us the way, and steer our paths. To the teachers who laugh with us, protect us, and guide us…
We remember you.