Teachers reap grand rewards

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 29, 2005

As I worked on the profile of some of our retiring teachers for this week’s Lifestyles front, I began to think back over my own school days.

I’ve been blessed throughout my life with good teachers. During my childhood attending my little country church, there were my Sunday School and Vacation Bible School teachers (can you still smell the gold spray paint on your macaroni shell picture frame and taste the flower-shaped butter cookies and orange Kool-Aid? I sure can).

Later there were my teachers in school, from Mrs. Nettie Atkins in the first grade right up through folks like Billie Faulk and Priscilla Davis in my senior year.

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Then came my college instructors. One or two, I fear, had more &uot;book learning’&uot; than they did common sense (one psychology professor with a fondness for hugging his female students comes to mind. We learned to keep our distance).

There are bad teachers out there – teachers who are indifferent, lazy, too burned out to care about making a positive difference in their students’ lives. One or two I’ve encountered seemed to be half-cracked, quite frankly.

Teachers like these need to get out of the profession and find themselves another job. Fortunately, many of those who discover they are unsuited for the classroom make the decision to leave on their own.

Those who stay in the classroom for two and three decades and more, like some of the folks I talked to for this article, are there because they love it.

Teaching is full of a lot of intangible rewards. It’s seeing the light come on in the eyes of a student who has finally &uot;got it&uot;.

It’s having a student come back to you and tell you how much their college instructor bragged on their proficiency in course work you gave them the foundation for.

It’s grading a test and seeing improvement in the work of a student who has been struggling.

Sometimes, it’s simply seeing how glad they are to see you again.

Teaching is introducing new worlds and new horizons to a student. Whether it’s helping them learn to appreciate art, music and drama, teaching them the basics of fractions and percentages or showing them how our nation’s government works – it’s part of the mental bricks and mortar that build a more well-rounded individual.

Not to mention a high school education today also offers the opportunity to learn valuable skills with computers, automotive technology, childcare, and so much more before a student ever leaves the school. A teacher just might make the difference between a constructive and useful life and a wasted one.

I applaud all our retiring teachers and support personnel for the difference I am sure they have made in the lives of others.

No, you don’t get rich as a teacher monetarily. Still, there are some grand rewards.

Angie Long is the lifestyles reporter for the Greenville Advocate

and can be reached at 383-9302, ext. 132 or via email at angie.long@greenvilleadvocate.com