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A teacher is always a teacher

As I walked the halls of Pagosa Springs High School, I prayed.

I was struck by a feeling of expectations and anticipation over the next nine months. There will be decisions made by and for these young minds.

Parents are sending their children to school believing they will be given an education. They are hoping the teachers will play decisive roles in their child’s life and show them a better way. They are putting their trust in the teacher’s heart and the teacher’s attitude toward their children’s formable minds.

This summer, an incident happened: A high school teacher was using the F word over and over again, yelling at our grandson and his friends. I guess she thought she was off duty, and she had a right. I don’t think a teacher is ever off duty. I guess she didn’t realize she is always teaching.

Teachers chose that elevated place.

My grandson said to us, “We don’t use that word at home. I could understand her fine without that word.”

I realize there are the unteachables. If the student is ready to learn, the teacher will show up. Sometimes the student shows up, but doesn’t really show up.

In the first grade, the teacher said to us about our son, “He is the heartbreak of my first-grade class. I couldn’t teach him.”

That was the beginning of 12 years of this child’s life.

It didn’t get any better. By his senior year, he was hanging around the parking lot and wouldn’t go into the classroom.

He had one teacher from Pagosa who moved to Rio Rancho. Maybe you remember Mrs. Webb, the chorus teacher? The kids loved her. She was teaching in Rio Rancho at the same time we were there. Her class was the only class our son would go to; he hung around her class all day. She had his undivided attention.

After refusing to graduate like the norm, he went to night school and received a high school diploma and also his GED.

Al and I both said, “He made it so hard on himself. He always thought he knew more than the teachers.”

Believe me, I stayed on my knees for that child.

Today, he runs a company with 3,400 employees.

They have said about him, “He thrives in chaos.”

He has flown all over the world as a trouble shooter and has pulled companies out of the fire.

He laughs as he says, “It’s funny that I can pull these companies out of so much chaos when I used to be the chaos maker.”

He had in him a will to succeed, but he couldn’t find it in the classroom.

When I was only 13, the summer between eighth and ninth grade, my Dad died suddenly. I remember the only person I wanted to tell was my eighth-grade literature teacher, Mrs. Johnson. I knew she cared and would understand. I waited until September to tell her.

She did understand.

It still has an effect on me today, some 50 years later.

With school beginning, I salute the teachers of Pagosa; they have the most challenging and rewarding task ahead of them.

Some students might fall between the cracks and they will bring heartbreak to their teacher. Some will excel in the classroom and be challenged to go further than they could dream.

I walked through the halls with expectations.

We have wonderful teachers in our school system.

Final brushstroke: Teachers, it is an awesome profession you hold in your hand. You have been granted the gift of teaching. If you lose the vision, you lose the opportunity to make a difference.

Artist’s quote

“When you affirm big, believe big and pray big, putting faith into action, big things happen.” Dr. Norman Vincent Peale — author.

Readers’ comments

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This story was posted on September 13, 2012.