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Mom's Time Out

Great Teachers

Mary Angel

(April, 2011) With all that has been happening in Japan between the earthquake, tsunami and consequently the problems at the nuclear plants I have found myself counting my blessings more than ever before. As I look at my children from preschool to middle school aged I am reminded of a blessing that I often overlook. The blessing of a great teacher.

This article is going to concentrate and give thanks to the many great teachers my children have had and to thank two in particular who have been amazing. When my kids started school I was nervous, of course, but their kindergarten teachers have been so sweet and had great dispositions for working with small children that my apprehensions were quickly relieved. As the years progressed and the school work became harder and more involved the teachers I have encountered have stepped up to the challenge.

In second grade, my oldest son was running into some problems with "zoning out" when he was in class. He was not disruptive at all and, therefore, would have slipped through the cracks. But his teacher, the lead teacher of second grade, the gifted and talented teacher, guidance counselor, and the assistant principal got together in a meeting with me to see if there wasn't something we could do to catch the "zoning" as it was starting or prevent it all together.

As my family was going through a trying time, with all kinds of tests for my son including seizure disorder and an array of other exams, these teachers put in the extra effort to try and help my child. In the end the lead teacher (a saint in my eyes) asked me if I would mind my son being moved to her advanced class. I was thrilled to try anything. This was the best thing they could have done, between her exuberant style and the curriculum being more challenging he thrived in her class, with very few episodes from then on. That little extra that those teachers put forth was a blessing for my son, and for my whole family.

My second son has no problems in math, in fact he excels, but reading and writing are a constant struggle for him. When he reached third grade he couldn't stand reading and writing was only slightly less of an argument. Near the start of the second quarter I had a parent teacher conference with his math and ELA (english/language arts) teachers. During this meeting I almost fell over as the ELA teacher complimented my son. I never expected an ELA teacher to do that. Please understand, they had never been negative but always struggled with him as I did in the subject. Then she turned to me and explained that there were certain things that were required for the students to do for their grade but that they were able to adjust other things to meet a students needs.

With this comment she then explained that the yearlong reading and writing program that they had was to encourage the students, not to discourage them, which was the case for us. So she altered the curriculum slightly for my son and sat with him periodically to discuss what he was reading and gave him tons of positive reinforcement. Now he has found some books that he actually enjoys and although he it is still a struggle he is doing so much better. This teacher made a difference for my child, and without letting him off the hook or making him feel stupid. She was awesome.

Now suddenly I find myself the mother of a middle schooler and boy are we both overwhelmed. But what a blessing I found at Northwest Middle. My oldest was always a great reader and loved to write too. Math wasn't the best but he did alright. On the other hand, he had no interest in Science and Social Studies. This all changed when he met Mr. Reily and Mr. Leader. Mr. Reily teaches science and Mr. Leader social studies. From day one they both had so much enthusiasm that my son could hardly contain himself when he would get home. He would all but babble, "in Mr. Reily's class we..., and in Mr. Leader's class we..." on and on he would continue.

And it wasn't just the great stories or experiments they were doing, but the information was being retained. They made such an exciting and engaging environment that the kids couldn't help but learn. And neither one of them was so focused on the grades that they forgot the kids. For them it was all about the kids and knowing that they learned something in their class. If he gets something wrong they encourage him (and everyone else) to come in and fix it. They want to know that they understand what they are learning and are retaining the information.

In Mr. Reily's class he makes jokes, tells stories, and does experiments that keep the kids interested and engaged. My son enjoys his stories so much he has asked if we can have Mr. Reily over for dinner. In Mr. Leader's class there are stories and jokes and he is one of the teachers in charge of an after school club, not to mention his notebooks. Mr. Leader has each child keep a notebook with their notes, handouts, vocabulary, drawings and any other information they might need on the current topic. My son has learned how to take notes and amazing organizational skills from this notebook alone. This is not to mention everything else he has learned from these two men. They are truly amazing teachers and a blessing for sure.

A great teacher is a teacher who goes the extra mile, who helps out when a child needs that extra attention, who thinks out of the box when there is a unique circumstance. A great teacher knows when to be stringent and when to be lenient and bend, they engage the children and care just as much about their education as their grades. Mr. Reily and Mr. Leader are "great" teachers and I thank them.

Read other articles by Mary Angel