ONE OTHER NAME
I have several names which I cherish being called. Each one defines a part of me. I began as Miriam and Ruby’s daughter. I am Elynne– the first daughter– the first grandchild. I had a new and wondrous family love. Daughter is a blessing of birth. Eldest daughter is a blessing of time.
At four years of age, I became older sister. Sister. I now existed as a unit of two– a friendship between two that would eventually become four. Being Linda, Susan and Ivy’s eldest sister, I shared with them a legacy of Chaplik and womanhood.
As a woman, I became Mrs. Richard Aleskow, (Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow). With profound love I made my husband’s name part of my identity, part of my being.
Professionally through my on-air work as General Manager and spokesperson of WYCC-TV, Channel 20, viewers often greeted me in public as the Channel 20 Lady. In building this educational PBS television station, its foundation was based on respect for our audience’s minds and hearts. I was proud of that name and what it represented.
There is one other name. It has always been my dream to become this name. It is a name that fills me with deep pride and humility.
It is Professor.
Many of my Community College students are restaurant bus boys and servers. Some of my students are supermarket cashiers and baggers and stockers.
Some are single parents who go to college while they work full or part time. They do it all at once.
When I was awarded the Golden Apple by the College’s Phi Theta Kappa Student Honor Society, I was deeply touched. When I was awarded the College’s Excellence in Teaching Award by the Faculty Council, I was proud. It was a profound honor to me.
When I was given an Award that is rarely given at the College, I was moved. It is called the Hug Award and it was presented to me by the College’s Future Teachers Club.
The Award is a statue with bodies in a circle holding and hugging one another. There is a larger figure whose arms extend to smaller figures all of whom are in an embrace. The engraved caption reads “It takes a circle of love and support to mold young lives. For your enduring support to Future Teachers.”
It is the City Colleges of Chicago students I teach in whom I believe. I have witnessed their need and felt their pride. I have experienced their fear and have seen their determination.
Hearing “hello, Professor” in the halls of Wright College makes my soul smile. The meaning of this name has allowed me the privilege of teaching– the privilege of working with students who have never reached for the stars– the privilege of bringing the stars into their reach.
Being called Professor has been one of the most cherished gifts of my life. The teacher’s apple represents seeds that are planted and spread to be shared with others. One of my students told me this as she handed me a gift—a red ceramic apple.
The Hug will always symbolize for me the connection a teacher and her students share. The bond they create is one remembered for a lifetime. It is this connection that allows many to realize their life’s dreams.
At the end of each semester I have an intense session planned for my students in which they give each other special feedback on their work and growth as human beings and public speakers. At the end of the session I ask for their feedback about my teaching and my course.
I have received many touching and insightful comments from my Speech 101 students. Today I asked once again and heard a comment that took my breath away.
“What do you think of our textbook?” I asked. “YOU are our textbook” was the reply from one student with others enthusiastically concurring. “What an awesome responsibility” I thought to myself. “This exquisite comment reflects the essence of teaching: showing them how.”
How to shape their self-esteem. How to develop and balance their public and private selves. How to communicate with empathy. How to reach toward their potential. How to be poised and professional.
It is one thing to write a textbook. It is another realm to be one in the eyes of your students. Each page they read is my responsibility as their model, their mentor, their Professor.
I am Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow. Miriam and Ruby’s eldest daughter. Linda, Susan and Ivy’s sister. Richard Aleskow’s wife. My students’ Professor. With two semesters to go before retirement, I will not say good-bye. I will always hear “hello, Professor.”
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