Throwback Thursday: My favorite teacher

We asked our Teacher Advisory Council members to honor a teacher they had growing up. Here’s what they had to say.

In fifth grade, I was an awkwardly self-conscious student with frizzy hair, a mouth full of orthodontia, and Coke bottle glasses, and Mr. West was the first teacher who ever really took the time to truly see me. One particular afternoon, I had missed the bus home, and as I waited in the office for my frustrated mother to pick me up, Mr. West walked in, immediately saw the situation and realized how upset I was. With a look of understanding he bent down, took a friendship pin off of the top row of his shoelaces (I’m totally dating myself here), and silently handed it to me with a smile. It meant more than he could ever know, his taking the time to notice a student who was having a quietly difficult time. He taught me the power of relationships in the classroom, how taking the time to be present and truly see your students is the very best, most powerful gift you can give them. After all, how we teach and who we teach is every bit as important as what we teach.

Cathy Whitehead, Chester County

I attended a very small school in Smith County. As a result, we had the same teacher for two years. My third and fourth grade teacher was Mrs. Cathy Dringenburg. She helped develop in me the passion and love for reading that I still have today by always encouraging me to read and ensuring I had books to read. Later on, I taught with her for a few years, and she recollected stories of me coming to her classroom while I was in first and second grade to read all of her Nancy Drew stories in her classroom library. By having her as a positive educator early in my life, it has instilled in me the value of kind words, praise, and a gentle nudge to encourage students to push a little harder as I teach students in my classroom each day.

—Laurie Glover, Smith County

A teacher who really inspired me and poured into my life outside of the classroom was my high school music teacher, Shirley Pace. Throughout my four years at Cleveland High School, she shared pearls of wisdom and offered practical life advice while allowing me the space to be creative in the classroom and on the stage. Since graduation she has been a constant voice of encouragement for me and countless other Blue Raiders. As she enters into retirement this summer, I want to wish her well and thank her for spreading the music! 

—Adam Moss, Cleveland City Schools

When I was in high school, there was a teacher named Mrs. Barbara Wilkinson who taught Botany and Advanced Biology classes. She had a reputation for being very demanding and for setting a high standard of rigor in her classroom. I had always made good grades but I never considered myself to be one of the “smart” kids.  Somehow, I landed in Mrs. Wilkinson’s Botany class, and I was dreading it.  After several weeks of very challenging labs, projects and really stretching myself as a student, I made a 96 on the first 9 weeks test. It was in that moment that my mindset changed…I had to be a smart kid if I made an A on one of Mrs. Wilkinson’s exams.  I urge teachers to maintain the rigor because having that standard will encourage students to strive for excellence and think about themselves as successful students.  Thank you, Mrs. Wilkinson!

—Leslie Vines, Jefferson County