This I believe…
I believe in having a hero, a professional hero, to model myself after. I have encountered many teachers during my schooling years, but one in particular encompassed everything I strive to be as an educator, my hero.
I always knew my father was a good teacher. Every year on “bring your daughter to work day” we traveled to our local high school and I sat in on Mr. Worell’s classes where students would laugh at his jokes, ask him questions, confide in him like a friend, and spend approximately 45 minutes completely engaged in his lessons. I decided then and there that I, too, would be a teacher of young people and I would strive to impact students the way my dad did.
When I grew older, I attended the same high school where my father taught English. I gained a new perspective of Mr. Worell when friends of mine reported that my father treated his students with compassion and more importantly, respect. He taught them to look at language in a new way, to individualize their own learning and to learn in a way that made sense to them. Many expressed a love of the English language that was not recognized until my dad came along.
He took students to fly kites when teaching a unit on poetry. He encouraged a group of at-risk boys to try out for the high school performance of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” One of those boys went on in theatre and recently graduated from Columbia University with a degree in theatre. My father took on challenges in education, working with students who wanted a last chance at attending college, by coaching them on placement tests and admissions essays. He was the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave after the school day ended.
I heard my father’s voice echo down the hallways for four years, and I proudly spent those four years known to many only as “Mr. Worell’s daughter.” He retired from teaching the same year I graduated high school. He joked that we “graduated together.” He made plans to travel and visit those places he had only read about in books.
My father died three months into retirement, on the first day of autumn. I was attending his alma mater, studying education in his footsteps, when I heard the news.
Since my father’s death, I have committed myself to practicing education the way my father did. My dad, my hero, commanded respect from his students and granted respect in return. He saw a clean slate with every young person who entered his classroom door. He shared with me the belief that there are no “bad students,” –only “challenges.” So he worked to help everyone who requested it—and even some who did not. He never stopped giving all that he had to his students. My father was an educator of life, a teacher of lessons…a hero.
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