“Thank a Teacher,” column for May 24, 2016

It’s that time again. Another school year is ending. Students will say goodbye to a chapter of their lives. Teachers will breathe a sigh of relief. And parents will mourn the passage of another milestone, and pray for strength to survive until the kids go back to school.

My end-of-school tradition (like counting my blessings at Thanksgiving or stealing peeps from my kids’ baskets at Easter) is to say “thank you” to teachers _ to all teachers everywhere, but to some more than others. I start by making a mental list of my favorites _ mine and my children’s and grandchildren’s.

It’s a long list, growing longer, and it varies from year to year. Gratitude is often shaped by life’s stages and changes. I have favorites for different reasons at different times and seasons. Topping the list, of course, are two of my children who are, like their late father, great teachers. I wish you could see them.

OK, here are some of my other favorites:

1. My teacher in second grade. I was new at the school and not happy about it. But every day she would light me up with her smile and her kind words. She also bought my lunch on the sly when I couldn’t pay for it, dried my feet with a towel when I got wet in the rain and made me believe I was smart.

2. My high school English teacher, who gave me an A+ for my essay on “The Secret of Happiness” and told me I was a writer. I didn’t know what “writer” meant. Actually, I still don’t. But he seemed pretty sure about it and I believed him.

3. My college history professor. He taught me that if you want people to remember what you say, tell them a story and make it a good one. I’m also thankful in a different way for another professor, who fell asleep in his own lectures. He taught me not to speak in a monotone in an overheated room after lunch.

4. Sunday school teachers, who taught me hard-to-grasp blessings like forgiveness and grace _ and to never pretend to know Bible verses or anything else you don’t really know.

5. Friends who aren’t officially teachers, but have taught me plenty in the school of life.

6. Friends who taught high school with my first husband. I never sat in their classes, but they helped me by their example to be a better person and stood by me and my children through his illness and death. There is no finer teacher than that.

7. A kindergarten teacher, who was adored by my children, though only one of them was ever in his class. We taught Sunday school together, he and I, for 12-year-old boys. Talk about an education.

8. A middle school English teacher who made reading and writing fun for my kids, and parent conferences something I could look forward to.

9. High school teachers who never once called me to complain about my kids. They just walked down the hall and complained to the kids’ dad.

10. College professors who helped my children find their callings _ one to acting, two to teaching, all where they belong.

11. Preschool teachers who, for little people like my grandson, Henry, and my husband’s granddaughter, Charlotte, are the next best thing to staying home with their moms and their dads and their dogs.

12. And finally, the kindergarten teacher, bless her, who has given my grandson Randy a grand first year of school.

I owe them all a huge thanks. I’d like to write thank-you notes. But I’ll probably just thank them in my heart. Does that count?

What about you? Who are your favorites?

I hope you and your loved ones know teachers who not only teach, but make children smile and tell them they’re good at something and help them find their calling.

I hope you’ll thank them, if only in your heart.

While you’re at it, give them my thanks, too.


  1. Shashi Saini says

    I was teacher for about 20 years ,I had to learn how to teach but my students made me best as they were good listeners . Then my children taught me so many new things ,Being a grandmom I am still learning . To stay healthy ,patient and pretend to play like a child again .Thank you .

  2. Kate Sciacca says

    First grade… Sister Dorothy John… A class of fifty squirmy 6 year olds and she made us all feel like we were the best and smartest kids ever born ? She taught us the basics of phonics and reading, and she taught us our Faith by the way she lived….

  3. Debbie K says

    I will never forget my third grade teacher, Miss Willomain. I had never had a “lay” teacher before, attending a parochial school where I was greeted, more often than not, by a scary nun. I loved everything about her, including her letting me stay after school to help her in the classroom to help with setting up for the next glorious day. Imagine any teacher who could make a young girl like me want to stay after school. What a gift she & I both had that year. Great memories!

  4. Thank you to my son’s middle school principal. He saw a struggling single Mom and called me aside. Because of the look on my face, he had to preface his comments with, “Nothing is wrong,” He commended me for what a good job I was doing raising my son. I doubt he knew that I had lost my job of 21 years and was waiting for the next door to open. No words can express how much that meant to me and how much it lifted me up.

  5. So many teachers have touched my life over the years. Opening up my love for history and literature. For the ones who saw potential in a very shy and backward girl and brought out my talents. There were special ones who inspired my children as well. These teachers are teaching because of their love for children. To them it is not just a job. Blessings to all those special teachers.

  6. Kevin Howe says

    I remember your first article in “Weekend” about childhood Christmas in North Carolina, and meeting your new stepdad. You were working as the newsroom receptionist for people who didn’t have a tenth of your talent. Yes, your high school English teacher was correct. You are a writer.

  7. Jeanie Anton says

    Thank you Sharon. Teachers have favorites too, though we can never let on who those students may be. But I can say that the three Randall children are on my list. Each was bright, eager to learn, and I always enjoyed working with them. Please say hello to Josh, Joanna, and Nate for me. I love to read about them in your columns. Though I have been retired for (gulp) nine years now, I do miss the interaction with young students.
    Take care and keep writing. 🙂

  8. Pam Dozier says

    Sharon, thanks for this column reminding me of the special education teachers whom I thank for our younger son’s successes. He’s 36 now. He started in special ed as a 3-year-old who’d already had 4 hip surgeries, 2 years in a full body cast and hadn’t yet started to talk. From 3 years old all the way through high school (thanks to services provided by the local office of education) he had dedicated teachers whose mission was his success – main-streaming him into regular classes (a challenge for the regular teacher), advocating with administrators for programs that would meet his needs, and fostering acceptance from his fellow students. Example: When his school apologized that they couldn’t accommodate him on a class trip to Yosemite, his teacher volunteered to accompany him as a one-on-one, unpaid on her own time! High school kept the dream alive with teachers and aides who assisted him in a regular classroom setting. I understand that it wasn’t easy for them. I still choke up remembering his high school graduation when the entire senior class stood and cheered when he walked down to accept his diploma. Teachers made a huge difference in in my son’s life…HUGE!

  9. Judi Kalvelage says

    Love this…and it brought back fond memories of some of my teachers. I discovered that I remembered every grade school teacher’s name, along with her face. This surprised me as I will soon be 74, so it has been a few years. I also thought of my brother, Denny, who passed away in in 2014. He truly embarrassed me in 6th grade. My teacher, Mrs. Woodworth, was really into science. Denny presented her with a horse skull…while I and my other classmates were in the classroom, mind you! (He couldn’t do it on his own time, after school!) Mrs. Woodworth was so gracious…but that was Mrs. Woodworth. Thanks for another great column!

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