They say teaching is the one profession that creates all the others.
That teachers affect eternity; no one can tell where their influence stops.
And it’s certainly true in my life.
I wouldn’t be the person I am today without a string of excellent educators.
For better or worse, I am the product of decades of first-rate instruction and inspiration.
There are so many teachers who made a profound impact on my life.
Mr. Mitchell taught me how to express my opinion, listen to others and consider their point of view before responding.
Ms. Robb taught me how to organize my thoughts so they make sense to someone else.
Mr. Geissler taught me how money and politics work together.
Ms. Neuschwander taught me the value of a good story.
And there are so many more. I wish I could remember them all.
If we’re honest, everyone had a plethora of powerful pedagogues in their lives.
Their names are legion – even if we can’t remember most of them.
During this Teacher Appreciation Week, the one that keeps popping into my head is Ms. Zadrel.
She was my third grade teacher.
I don’t remember what she looked like. I don’t remember most of her lessons. I’m not even sure if I’m spelling her name right.
But I do remember how she organized her class.
The room was a separate town called Zadrelville. The rows of desks were streets. Each student had a job and we earned play money.
We could send each other letters, play the lottery, vote for class mayor – almost everything you’d do in a small town. Everyday tasks were jobs – emptying the pencil sharpener, passing out papers, cleaning the blackboard, etc.
And me? I wrote the newspaper. “The News of 201” it was called.
It was a fairly gossipy rag. Headlines included things like who liked whom, if someone got paddled in gym, and which was better – Indiana Jones or Star Wars movies.
I made the paper myself, ran it off on the copier and delivered it to subscribers’ desks.
I published about once a week. Any day a new edition would roll hot off the press (and it actually was warm), everyone in the class had to have one. It was essential reading.
There even may have been a few fights caused by some of my articles.
“You like Beth!? She’s got cuties!”
I never got a chance to see Ms. Zadrel’s lesson plans. I’m not sure exactly what she had in mind for us from this classroom management model. But I learned a lot.
Perhaps the longest lasting lesson was about myself. I learned how much I love being creative and how important it is for me to impact people’s lives.
Would I have become a teacher, myself, if I hadn’t had this experience? Maybe not.
I’d always enjoyed writing, but seeing such a demand for my work probably changed my life.
I wasn’t just writing for ME. I was writing for an audience. I gauged what the class wanted from a newspaper and provided it.
My articles may have caused a stir, but no one ever unsubscribed. By putting all that everyday ephemera in one place, we all learned much more about each other.
I loved it so much that when I went to fourth grade, I kept up the paper. It didn’t have quite the same magic in a class that wasn’t its own self-contained city, but I’d already been bitten by the bug.
You might say that this blog, itself, is really just a continuation of that adolescent newspaper I started in Ms. Zadrel’s class.
I’ve been a professional journalist, a freelancer and now a blogger. But I’m really just writing a classroom newspaper for people who are interested in another edition.
Ms. Zadrel is long retired. I don’t know what happened to her or if she’s even still around somewhere.
I don’t know what she’d say if she could read this blog.
But I know what I’d say to her.
With all my heart – thank you.
NOTE: This article also was published on the Badass Teachers Association blog.
8 thoughts on “The Longest Lasting Lesson – A Thank You to All the Excellent Teachers I’ve Ever Had”
What they undertook to do
They brought to pass;
All things hang like a drop of dew
Upon a blade of grass.
— William Butler Yeats • “Gratitude to the Unknown Instructors”
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My gosh, this brings up such memories for me. I also had Mrs. Zadrel for 3rd grade, and have vivid memories from her classroom. This was the year of the Bush Dukakis election. We had a Zadrelville election in which Dukakis won (I voted for him because I thought he was “cuter”). I remember so much about her! She wore heavy makeup and had a short, but large hairstyle with tons of hairspay. Mrs. Zadrel sat behind us, unlike most teachers that have desks in the front. At snack time, I’d sometimes peek back at her to find her reapplying hairspray or using a disposable bic razor to quickly shave her face. I loved that class. I loved having a job. I remember delivering letters. Kudos to you for literally creating your own publication back when the rest of were just starting to learn out timetables. You were a born writer.
Lora, you’ve also brought so much of her class back for me. She made a real difference in so many lives. Thank you for the approbation. You know how much I love to write. You’ve become a very good writer, too. I love your description of the Bush-Dukakis election! I remember back in first grade I voted for Reagan over Carter. How far I’ve come politically!
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