During the last three years, I have worked as a substitute teacher, and it has become more and more apparent to me that people who become teachers do not do it for the money. They are worth far more than they are paid. Honestly, sometimes I am not sure adequate compensation for my favorite teachers even exists.
But, you say, they have summers off! They get a few weeks off in the middle of the school year! Their jobs are not that hard!
Well, I am here to tell you that their job IS hard, they might get summers ‘off’ but they don’t truly take it ‘off’ and those ‘weeks’ they get off in the middle of the school year? A teacher’s mental health needs this time off just to survive and to keep up with the unrelenting workload.
My current substitute teaching job is going to be lengthier than any other one I have ever had. So far, I’m doing well and enjoying the time with the students. But in the three days since it began, I feel like I’ve run an entire marathon each day. My life has been consumed with organizing and reorganizing, making sure I’m on top of everything and it’s all in the right places, not to mention managing a classroom full of children, which is a job in and of itself without having to worry about academics.
In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, our writers have decided to honor their favorite teachers. Whether it be a teacher of theirs or their children’s teachers, we wanted to create this post as a tribute to them. So, without further ado, here are the stories of our Vermont Mom writers’ favorite teachers.
My English teacher in high school- Mr. Johnson. He was one of the ‘hardest’ teachers in our high school- many students elected not to take classes with him because the demands were so high and it was very, very difficult to get an A in his class. I learned more during my time with him about how to accelerate my writing and take out the ‘fluff’- and I believe is why I am able to write/ communicate the way I do through writing today. I didn’t get an A in that course, I think I got an A- or B+. But I would choose to take his classes again and again because of how much I learned and how much I was challenged to grow!
I had a social studies teacher in 11th grade. Barry Sckulnick. Glens Falls, NY. I am not sure about the spelling of his name. He was the first and only teacher until college who talked about the good and bad about the USA and our role internationally. So glad I got the opportunity to tell him what an impact he made on me. He came into my store when I was in my 30s.
My 2nd-grade teacher took me under her wing. She got married during that year and despite how much she had going on, she forged a special relationship with me. My mother was sick and ended up passing away the summer after 2nd grade. But Mrs. Zion continued to spend time with me. She taught me how to play tennis. She made sure I felt loved. 25 years later, I still visit her any time I’m in Florida. I truly believe she is the reason I survived grade school emotionally intact.
In the white-bread-and-mayonnaise world of my 1980s suburban high school, Warren Allen Smith was… different. He was my high school English teacher, but that barely matters because time in his class was less about language and more about being human. With a flourish, he signed our papers “WASM,” a shortened version of his name based upon his initials. When most teachers dropped a curtain between their private lives and their teenaged charges, Mr. Smith regaled his students with stories of atheism and living in Hell’s Kitchen, a part of Manhattan that was unfamiliar to most Connecticut students from the suburbs. He did not talk to us about his time in Normandy in World War II, his published works on humanism, the New York City recording studio he founded, or Fernando Rodolfo de Jesus Vargus Zamora, his business partner and “paramour” (as WASM referred to Fernando in the 1980s-era press), all of which I learned decades later and all of which clearly contributed to defining him. He set himself apart from my other teachers by giving me the permission to express myself; WASM brought vibrancy and authenticity to an otherwise preppy and rather dull Connecticut experience. He died in 2017 at the age of 95. RIP, WASM.
-Vicky Parra Tebbetts
When I think about my favorite teachers there are a few that stand out. Irene and Diane were some of my all-time favorite elementary school teachers and in high school, my biology teacher, Kristen, made learning science fun! But today I want to share about some of my Champlain College professors that impacted me. When I started college, I was a graphic design major, but quickly learned that wasn’t for me and transferred into the education department. This was where I found professors that I remember fondly and I will always appreciate the time they spent teaching me. Rob Williams encouraged me to think differently and question my own preconceived beliefs. Nancy Nahra was an English teacher who pushed me to become a better writer and reader. She also hosted a book club that made me fall in love with book clubs! Within the education program, Kathy Leo-Nyquist, Laurel Bongiorno, Kenneth Reissig, and Colin Ducolon shaped me into the educator I am today.
These professors shared their gifts and their wisdom with me. They challenged me to do my absolute best work, to push beyond my doubts, and to persevere even when things were hard or I was scared to try something new. These lessons I carry into my work with my students and my life! Thank you to each one of my favorite teachers.
As a parent, I have been in awe of how well teachers have responded to all that they have had thrown at them during this year. Seriously, as a planet, we asked an entire occupation to become masters in, well, seventeen other specialties. Therapist, IT specialist, scheduling savant, personal tutor, air-traffic controller, administrator, comedian, actor, and the list goes on!
I say all this as a lead-in to the amazing forecasting, planning, class, and dexterity my daughter’s teacher had during the height of the quarantine. Her third/fourth-grade teacher, Tara Weegar. I had no idea how superhuman teachers were until this crazy year. As the Covid numbers got worse and talk of closing schools picked up, Tara prepared her students AND their parents with online tools and how-tos to get families ahead of the “how the heck do we do this curve!” In real-time, I had no idea other families did not have this prodigious person as a guide to handling online learning.
She was communicating daily with her students’ parents. Sending kids home with packets (just in case) and code cheat sheets to have handy when kids are asked to log in. (Because of this, “what’s my passcode?” never turned into the trigger for us that it did for other families). Always smiling and always available, Tara showed heart, patience, determination, and love during a time that kids so desperately needed a touchstone. Fast forward to the next school year and my now 5th grader in remote learning until January 2021. When the time came to head back to school, new teacher, new systems and protocols, and no Mrs. Weegar, I could feel the trepidation oozing from my daughter, Elaina. What to do? Yep, call Mrs. Weegar. Tara met Elaina at the end of a school day – because that’s what every teacher wants to do at the end of the day – stay late! Elaina got her private tour of her new classroom and typical day walk-thru with Mrs. Weegar. Elaina emerged smiling and confident that all would be okay. And mom, well my heart ached for all the love and dedication she has shown my daughter, even when she was not her teacher anymore. She is always a role model and touchstone. Thanks to Tara Weegar, 3rd and 4th-grade teacher at Williston Central School, Vermont.
I’ve had many great teachers. However, I think my absolute favorite teacher was one of my high school English teachers. I had him for 9th grade English and then the overachiever in me opted to take his Journalism class as my English requirement instead of A.P. English class as a senior. Mr. Stinson always had a quiet calm about him and he had a lot of interesting thoughts about what we read or thoughtful feedback on my writing. I have always enjoyed writing, but my love of putting words on a page really grew when I took journalism. He encouraged all types of writing and helped me use the skills I already had to become a better writer. As a class, we published the school newspaper (he even trusted me enough to name me its treasurer) and I looked forward to writing my contribution every week because of it. He also had us write and put together our own children’s books as part of the class. I still have the project on my shelf at home and I have always been proud of that story. When I was still a speech-pathologist working with preschoolers, I used that story in my therapy sessions with my clients and created activities to use with it. Every time I take it out, I fondly look back to the days I took his class. I truly believe that his encouragement gave me the confidence to keep writing and keep improving. I have no doubt that his encouragement of my writing is one of the major reasons I am here writing for Vermont Mom.
My favorite teachers have always been the scary ones. The teachers whose names make your stomach sink and the ones who inspire quavering voices and downcast eyes. Friendly teachers were fun, but I felt like I could trick them into accepting work that was less than my very best. I worked so hard for those terrifying teachers, and they forced me to learn so much. I remember them all with the utmost fondness, because in every case, I was able to meet their challenges, and learn more than I ever anticipated.