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Opinion: Did you have a teacher you loved?

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“Donna, would you come up to my desk,” asked Mrs. Bone, my 6th grade teacher. I was generally not asked to come to her desk so I quickly reviewed my behavior for the morning. Yes, I had been a little late coming in from recess and I had talked a little too loudly with my friend, Barbara, but that was all I could think of. Mrs. Bone went on, “I would like you to be the editor of our class paper.” I wondered at the time if this was a punishment or a compliment.

I worked with Mrs. Bone for several months before publishing our class paper, something I was very proud of. Mrs. Bone saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. Like many of your, teachers have had profound influence in my life and the lives of my children.

My oldest son became an English teacher and coach because of the influence of his high school coach and teacher, Ken Wagner. My daughter became a business teacher because she was inspired by legendary Lehi business teacher, Merle Smith. Another son became a history teacher because he so admired and loved his history teacher in junior high, Mr. Payne. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, my family’s lives have been touched by great teachers!

There are pages and pages of research to support the fact that teachers influence students’ lives. In a recent article published by Harvard University’s DOC teaching center, “Teachers are responsible for more than just academic enrichment. . . the best teachers forge strong relationships and connect with pupils and reach them on multiple levels. Educators are able to affect virtually every aspect of their student’s lives, teaching them the important life lessons that will help them succeed beyond term papers and standardized tests.”

As a counselor in both junior and senior high, it was my experience that teachers were often the first to notice student behavior signaling problems. One particular year, a teacher alerted me to a student who was failing her class. He was our high school’s Sterling Scholar in mathematics. I checked with some of his teachers and they reported the same troubling behavior. He was failing all of his classes. In fact, his attendance was sporadic, his graduation status was in question. I had many conversations with the student and his parents, but to no avail.His parents were going through a difficult divorce. He seemed out of touch, distant, and sad.

On the night before graduation, the high school held a convocation at a local church house and the young man, a gifted pianist, was supposed to play. As the meeting was about to start, I looked around and he was not to be found. I panicked and found his AP history teacher. He became equally concerned and immediately left the meeting, found the young man’s church leader and together they began a search for this student. They were gone many hours, but finally, found him riding his bicycle down American Fork Canyon. Teachers cared about and loved this boy!

Being involved in education almost my entire life, I am sensitive to the criticisms I hear of teachers. One neighbor said, “teaching is really only a part time job.” I even cringe now reflecting on Jack Black’s line in School of Rock, “Those who can, do, those who can’t, teach.”

During the recent tirade of a local teacher, recorded by students in her class, criticism of teachers reached a new level. One national TV commentator suggested that cameras be placed in every classroom. I had to chuckle at the notion. As anyone who is involved in teaching knows, there are between 30-40 cameras in every classroom each and every period of the day. Teachers are under more scrutiny than almost any other profession. Some high school teachers are accountable to many as 140 students and their parents each day.

I love teachers! I am surrounded by them at my Sunday dinner table and I know the amount of time, effort, and emotional energy they expend every single day helping students achieve.

Here I am, nearly 70 years later, enjoying an activity and skillmy 6th grade teacher noticed and nurtured so many years ago. 

Thank you, Mrs. Bone, for believing in me.

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