Remembering Great Teachers

As my daughter goes from Kindergarten to 1st grade, I ponder her great teachers... and the great teachers I've had in the past, too.I cried this morning. Kate is attending her last day of Kindergarten.

That’s typical, right? My baby is growing up. I’m sensitive.

But that’s not it at all. I’m going to miss her teachers so much!

What makes good teachers?

That’s a tough question. When I try to answer it, I rewind to all the good (and great) teachers I’ve had through the years. I’ve integrated a piece of each of them into my own teaching style:

Miss Soap – 4th grade – taught us a standing-at-your-desk dance to the Copa Cabana. From her I learned that being a freakish fan about people like Barry Manilow and Earl Campbell gets you remembered.

(I’m a freakish fan of Weird Al and Matt Mullenweg. And I still sing and dance in class!)

Mrs. Barnett – freshman and senior high school English – taught us to enjoy learning from a cultural perspective, not just an academic one.

(I try to tell lots of stories from Mathematical Scandals to bring cultural math learning in. And I love talking about histograms and The Cask of Amontillado.)

Mr. Berkebile – high school chemistry – was just a little nuts in the classroom and kept us on our toes. He once threw chalk at a kid for talking too much. (Granted this is probably against the law somehow, but no students were hurt and we all got the message.)

(I throw things toward the trash. But my crazy schtick is signing all instructions to the tune of Frère Jacques.)

Dr. Brown – University of Houston math – taught us the value of humor and how to use it. He would say something clever and hilarious and never ever laughed.

(I still try to fit into my graphing lectures a badly drawn $$y=3x$$ so I can say, “Oh, great, now I’ve got a fat origin.”)

Dr. Friedberg – University of Houston math – had good board etiquette, precision with language and a joy of words and symbols. He would say corollary with the stress on the 2nd syllable.

(I still try to use the lowercase greek xi whenever I can in honor of him.)

Thomas Hughes – University of Houston history – showed us how a teacher’s enthusiasm translates to amazing learning. He would bounce onto the stage and write 20-30 terms/dates/events on the board. Then he’d bounce down and chat with us about them in an amazing conversation about people.

(I allow myself to get bouncy, excited and conversational any chance I can. Even if we run off on a tangent for a while. That enthusiasm wins over students’ hearts and minds every time.)

Coach Dyson – 9th grade math – taught us that not every student learns from every teacher. And that’s okay. He encouraged us to utilize peer tutoring, giving me my first chance at teaching math.

Thank you!

To all these teachers, and to Kate’s teachers, I send a big “Thank you.”

You are an inspiration to teachers everywhere.

Stay awesome!

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