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The influence of teachers

Ann Swanson

It is always a thrill for teachers when former students do well. I keep track of many of them because their parents are still around even if they are not.

Conversely, I always say a prayer for those whose names make the police blotter. Most of them do not surprise me. If they were a handful in school chances are, I may read their names there. The system failed them or their parents did, or maybe it was a combination of the two.

When I think back to my teachers, I have to say that the teachers I had in grade school played a significant part in my development. The kindergarten teacher and I had similar styles of teaching. I realized that when I student-taught for her. I will never forget her passing. Her funeral was on the same day that my first baby was born. I was supposed to meet my cousin to attend, but my son had other ideas – I ended up at the hospital instead.

My third-grade teacher was a peach. We did so many neat things with Mrs. Reilly. She had the patience of a saint.

I loved my fifth-grade teacher. She was a talented artist and taught us all to use our creativity. I remember drawing birds with her and making cloth rabbit pictures. When I asked her to sign my autograph book, her printing was beautiful. She also drew some flowers for me. I still have it after all these years. It was sad when she lost most of her eyesight.

For sixth-grade I had my first male teacher. Mr. Duino was an excellent teacher. He knew how to speak Spanish so we got the first Puerto Rican student in our class. We all helped him learn English. That was in the days before English as second language was taught.

Next came junior high. I had some of the same teachers that my mother had. I guess you could say that they were old although they were probably not as old as I thought at the time. I remember Mrs. Krieger. She offered extra credit if you did your work neatly and made a cover for the week. I always earned extra credit even if I did not need it. I remember seeing that 105 on my papers. She was known to use her ruler on your knuckles if you misbehaved. That would not be tolerated today.

Mr. Mancuso was my favorite teacher in junior high and high school. He moved up with us. He was also our class advisor. He had us do a project with stocks. Our class invested in local companies. By the time we were ready to graduate, the class had a sizeable amount of money. We used that money to fund several of our class reunions. He was tough, but he was fun as well. One year when my husband and I went to an event at Chautauqua Institution I heard a voice say, “Annie”, when we walked by. I knew who it was instantly because he is the only teacher who ever called me that.

Another teacher that I remember was Mr. Schwert. He taught math. I ran into him again when I returned to college for my Masters Degree. I had his son as a student that year. He ended up having the chicken pox so I went to his home so that he would not fall behind. From that time on his son loved to read. They were so pleased that they gave me a gift certificate for a local restaurant which my mother and daughter and I used.

As I think back to the years that I taught I wonder just how I am remembered. For some of the students I know because I see them frequently. Others, I see once in a while. If I was your teacher and you happen to see me do not be afraid to speak. I remember many of you. I recently met one former student at a family graduation party. She asked me if I remembered her. I did not recognize her, but when she told me who she was I told her I remembered her Halloween costume from when she was in kindergarten. Another young man who is now a husband and father, was at a family wedding. I had him in sixth grade. I recognized him. He introduced me to his children.

Recently in a local store a young man spoke. It took me a couple minutes to make the connection, but as we talked things fell into place. He was a neighbor.

At my volunteer station, I meet many former students. One young man proudly showed off his new baby that he pictured on his phone. He is one that I recognized right away.

A student I remember from her kindergarten days I see often with her own girls. She came with a broken leg. When I got sick and missed school she did not want to attend. I took the time to call her and assure her that I would be back as soon as I was better.

It certainly is strange the things you remember. I substitute taught all over the county before I went back full-time. My children got mad when we shopped because so many children stopped me to introduce me to their parents.

I loved my job. Teaching was just in my blood. I trained for the career because that was the only school that I could afford to go to, but the Lord had me under his wing. He knew where I belonged. In the end it was my avocation. Sometimes psychologists told me I got more out of the students than they had to give. That was a back-sided compliment that I was very satisfied with.

For those out there in the trenches, hang in there. I know that teaching is different than it was in my day, but there are so many rewards.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at hickoryheightts1@verizon.net.

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