Editor's Note: National Teacher's Appreciation Day is May 8, 2012 this year and is followed by National Teacher Appreciation Week. Take the time to celebrate, appreciate and honor those educators in your community who play such a crucial role in our children's lives. You never know until much later on how great an impact they have...
When I think about teachers who have had an impact on my life, a few names come up. Then, there is one that stands out. He was my high school calculus teacher, Mr. Gordon.
I remember him not because of the subject he taught. In fact, I don't remember anything about it except there were a lot of letters and very few actual numbers. I am also pretty sure I have never had to use any of the information since.
I remember Mr. Gordon for all the other lessons he taught in the classroom in spite of the calculus part.
About every three months, Mr. Gordon assigned take-home tests, which he required everyone in our small senior class to complete together. Sounds like the ideal test-taking scenario, right? Wrong. These tests were hard, the culmination of months of teaching in one thick, staple-bound packet. Without the accessibility of web searches and smart phone apps, we had to work all the equations out by hand with the occasional aid of a scientific calculator.
The entire class spent hours on a Friday night at someone's house figuring them out. And, you know what? It was fun.
By the last test, we looked forward to the number-crunching party, and we all learned the value of depending on each other to solve what at first appeared insurmountable. This is a lesson I have come back to again and again.
Ironically, it is also Mr. Gordon, the calculus teacher, who first encouraged me as a writer. One of his tactics to make the math more interesting included giving assignments that had nothing to do with crunching numbers or letters.
One of these assignments was to choose a famous mathematician, and write a profile about him. For my research on the writing style, I read the cover story on Tom Cruise in the latest issue of People magazine, and modeled my profile on Blaise Pascal after it.
After reading it, I remember Mr. Gordon telling me, "You are a writer." He even showed it to the English teacher in the classroom next door.
Writing is not an occupation I had ever considered. I was set to study nursing in college, something I had planned for years. I changed my major anyway.
Now with a journalism degree and a love for putting words to paper -- or screen -- I am grateful to my calculus teacher who taught outside the box and inspired me to first write something other than a book report.
Looking back it is incredibly easy to appreciate the positive impact he had on me. As a student, though, I know actually liking teachers is hard to do through the homework, rules and academic requirements.
But, it is important to remember, and I plan to encourage my upcoming kindergartner to do so. I hope she has teachers who love her and push her further than she thinks she can go. If she has difficulty with some, I will explain they are doing their job just like my calculus teacher did.
His class wasn't always the most fun and definitely not the easiest, but the impact of taking it has lasted long after I turned in that last test.
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