I vaguely remember Teacher Appreciation Week being a thing when I was a student. I think my mom had me give cards to my favorite teachers or something. As a teacher now, I regret not showing them that appreciation more – not in physical gifts necessarily, but in words. I’d like to make up for that a little bit for this year’s Teacher Appreciation Week by choosing my TOP TEN K-12 TEACHERS.
Mr. Myers – Elementary Librarian
Mr. Myers always stopped me to talk about what I was reading. After a few years, he would pass books along to me before he even cataloged them into the system. He trusted me to let him know if other students would want to read it, and the ones that I said yes to, he slapped a barcode on and put on the shelf. He made sure that each new Redwall book was in the library as soon as humanly possible and that I got it first, because I loved them. I realize that it was his job, but he took so much extra time to personalize our interactions and I know he did that with many other students as well.
Mrs. Chapnick – Talented and Gifted
Mrs. Chapnick offered to “unofficially” tutor me in Pre-Algebra in 6th grade – taking it upon herself to work ahead of me in the textbook and meet with me once a week to check homework and answer my questions even though she wasn’t a math teacher, so that I could pass an exam at the end of the year and progress on to Algebra. She didn’t have to do this. They could have kept me in grade level math and just told me to wait it out, or had me learn it all on my own. She volunteered to teach something out of her comfort zone just because it was the best thing for me.
Mrs. Gentzsch – Junior High Orchestra
Orchestra was just fun – and she encouraged me to make a string quartet with my friends and got us to learn Metallica on strings and wear weird outfits and go onstage and perform it. We had a photoshoot of our quartet and gave her a framed picture of us – Heiss Kase – when we left in 8th grade. She hung it on her wall. It was a weird picture. She didn’t have to display that.
Mrs. Hencke – Geometry
Fun Fact: Mrs. Hencke wasn’t ever supposed to be my teacher. In 8th grade, my school didn’t offer geometry as an option since there were only 4 of us and that was “too small” for a class. Busing to the high school was an “option”, but all of us were in too many electives that we didn’t want to give up. So they told us we could hire a private tutor and pass an exam to get credit for geometry. Our parents hired Mrs. Hencke. She gave up 2 hours. Every Sunday. For a year. We had class on Easter Sunday. We blew up Peeps in her microwave. I know our parents were paying her, but…still. We had so many insane weird inside jokes from that class that I still reference when I talk to the other 3 students. That was the first time I really considered that maybe math was a thing I’d like to keep doing for a long time.
Mrs. McLaughlin – Algebra II, AP Statistics
Here we have the moment I decided to become a math teacher – freshman year, in Algebra II Honors, with Mrs. McLaughlin having us play hilarious review games and putting me in groups with “scary” upperclassmen to force me to help them. I had class with a lot of the same students when I took AP Statistics as a junior, but they weren’t scary anymore and they accepted me into their study groups and invited me to their graduation parties, even though they were so much more popular than I was, because she had put me in groups with them when I was a freshman. She had so many inside jokes with our classes, one of which involved making paper octagons on the floor and pushing each other out of them as rewards for winning competitions. She convinced me to join math club, which I eventually became the co-president of, and we told terrible math jokes in the van for hours on the way to competitions.
Ms. Pedersen – Math Club Sponsor
When she found out I was interested in teaching math, she offered to make me a teaching assistant in one of her lower-level classes. I spent a period in her room every day my senior year, helping students who were behind or had missed lessons. She gave me an incredible opportunity that made me fall in love with teaching. After that, there was no option besides teaching for me. I never even had her for a class.
Herr Lower – German I-IV
I mean, I can speak another language because of him. He took us to Germany for a month. I know more German history than US History because we did a whole unit, IN GERMAN, about German history and he made it fun and interesting so that I still remember a lot of it. He made us memorize poems in German and write skits in German, and our class would have competitions to see who could make everyone laugh the most with their skits. I wish I could explain to you any of the weird German inside jokes that still make me laugh hysterically. Und wie.
Mr. Muilenburg – Honors Physics, Honors Chemistry, Freshman Science
This was the only class I struggled with at all in high school. He didn’t spoonfeed you a bit – lots of students got frustrated because he “wouldn’t answer questions”, but I learned through 3 years of having him to go up to his desk and just KEEP ASKING THE QUESTION in as many different ways as possible until his eyes would widen and I would realize I had talked myself onto the right track for the solution. He made us figure it out ourselves, because he knew we could. When I went back to visit several times during college, he always tried to convince me that I should teach physics instead of math.
Mr. Koepnick – Biology
I honestly don’t remember a lot from biology except for that osmosis is only for water and diffusion is for other things, and that we killed our patient during mini med school (oops), but I do remember Mr. Koepnick being the most supportive person once I decided to become a teacher. He continually showed so much interest in my field experiences and student teaching and what I was learning. He would tell me that the way I was talking about my classes made him convinced I would be a great teacher, brought me to the principal, and told him to put me on their teaching candidate shortlist. During my job search he spent his whole prep period telling me pros and cons of different types of schools to teach at. I saw him at the end of my first year of teaching and he told me how much he looked forward to the classroom anecdotes I shared on facebook. Last year on World Teacher’s Day, he wrote on my facebook wall that he was proud of me and I cried.
Mrs. Smirl – AP Calculus
She made us laugh in class, she was such a good TEACHER, like, her delivery of content was amazing. When I got to college, I realized I understood calculus so much better than almost all of my fellow math majors, and it wasn’t because I was smarter than them. It was because she taught us so well. I didn’t even realize how nerdy it was to have a favorite calculus rule (L’Hospital’s Rule) until I was taking Calc III at UNI, because our entire high school class was obsessed with it. She made sure to tell everyone that I was going off to college, and I was coming back to take her job when she retired. Every time I see her, she asks about the people from my class that she knows I still talk to – she knew so much about each of us and truly cared and wanted us all to succeed, and she can give me updates on most of our class almost 7 years later.
All of these teachers CARED so deeply about me, and about everyone in our classes. I remember how they treated me and the jokes they made and the ways they made lessons memorable. I guess my goal is to someday make it into some student’s Teacher Appreciation Week sappy blog post. That would be great.
Or if they’re talking about their high school days, for them to just be like “remember when Miss Mastalio would always use the Packers as examples in class because she loved them?” That’d be cool. I’d love that.
But I’ll also take, “What classes are you teaching next year, cause I want you to be my math teacher.”
“When you explain it it sounds easy.”
“Do you want one of these cookies?”
Yeah. I’ll definitely take those.