When I was in the fifth grade at Crimora Elementary School, the coolest person in the world, it seemed to me, was Mr. Eger.
Mr. Eger was our health, science and PE teacher, and he was also the advisor to the SCA.
He nominated me to run for SCA secretary, creating a monster – he had no idea that I was already a political junkie.
Mr. Eger would play basketball with us in PE class, play volleyball with us in the gym when we couldn’t go outside.
I felt like we’d scored big time when he moved up with us to sixth and then seventh grade.
Mr. Eger was my guy.
I’ve been seeing a lot on the interwebs this week about it being Teacher Appreciation Week, and it’s made me think about the teachers who helped shape me into being who I am today.
There was Mrs. Coffman, my teacher in first grade, who was the first to figure out, just give the kid the reading books and let him go at his own speed.
I read all the way through the end of third grade before first grade was done.
Mr. Landis, the principal, picked up the ball from there.
I remember him sitting beside me in math class in fifth grade, which made me think, was I in trouble?
He watched me for a few minutes, then asked me to go to the office.
I wasn’t in trouble; he told me that he wanted me to work ahead in the math book, like I’d done in reading, go at my own pace.
He’d obviously sensed my boredom sitting there beside me in the classroom.
The teacher couldn’t break away from the rest of the class to help me all that much, but it was OK.
I ended up teaching myself algebra in sixth grade.
Mrs. Coffman and Mr. Landis let me be me.
I don’t know where I’d be if they hadn’t done that for me.
And then there was Mrs. Smith, the school librarian.
She was also the advisor to the school’s gifted and talented group that met once a week.
There were just a few of us in that group – one is now a doctor, one a nurse, one a state trooper.
Mrs. Smith led us through group logic exercises, helped us organize a mock presidential election and a public speaking contest.
I tried my hand at Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and came in second.
She also took us on field trips to theaters, art and science museums.
That was a lot for a kid from a trailer park.
Mrs. Smith helped open my eyes to a brave new world that I wouldn’t have known existed.
These are the people who helped make me the me that I am.
It’s sad, now that I think of them, and the others who taught me in elementary school, high school, college, that I’ve lost touch with all of them.
I’m not who I am if not for them.
I wish I could do more than just say, thanks.