This year, for Teacher Appreciation Week 2021, we decided to do something different.
We love and respect and miss and admire teachers so much, and really, nothing we could do this year could adequately express that. You all deserve everything your heart desires. Certainly you deserve so much more than you’ve gotten. And that got us thinking: who were the teachers we’re still appreciating? Who were those educators who rocked our middle school worlds, and made us the education nerds we are today?
Reader, we have them.
Also some truly spectacular photos from our younger years. Truly.
So for Teacher Appreciation Week 2021, we salute educators everywhere fighting the good fight. And we have a couple special shout-outs for a chosen few.
“Mr. Camille’s reputation as a tough and demanding English teacher was well known. Seeing his name on my 9th grade course schedule instilled fear in my heart. But it turned out to have been wasted energy on my part. His love of language, constant punning, and acrobatic word play was as delightful to me as was his demand we understand how to use gerunds properly. It was his modeling of matching your work life to your passions that inspired me to become an English teacher. Forever grateful!”
“Mr. Hamilton, my second grade teacher, played the guitar for us, cooked squid for us, and most memorably brought us to the small copse of woods behind the school and had us hug trees. (We also watched them change throughout the year, did bark and leaf rubbings, and sat under their boughs to write poetry.) I eternally grateful for these experiences and know that they shaped who I am and my work today.”
“Mrs. Vasa put up with a lot from me in 5th grade. I’ll never forget how empathetic and kind she was about my unsatisfactory behavior grades at conferences with my parents. She encouraged me to write my irreverent and borderline inappropriate stories. She once let me “read” anime comic books my grandma gave me, even though I didn’t understand Japanese. And she allowed me to perform my rap song that was misaligned with the assignment and probably far off the beat. And that time I accidentally spontaneously told her “thanks, I love you” in front of the entire class, she laughingly defused my humiliation. She had competed to be part of the Challenger mission and when our class watched the disaster unfold together she found a way to comfort us without shielding us from reality.
Thank you Mrs. Vasa for being a real one, and for letting me be me.”
“When I was in 7th grade, my math teacher Anthony (Tony) Stanco made a lasting impact. He was an unusual man and was unlike any teacher that I’ve ever had. Mr. Stanco was silly, creative, curious, and a divergent thinker.
I remember most that Mr. Stanco was completely authentic and unique. He encouraged me to find that same confidence in being who I was. I now realize that he truly created an environment where I felt like I belonged. For that, I am forever grateful.
Mr. Stanco only stayed a year in this teaching position. Turns out he was a bit too quirky and divergent for some of the parents and school board members in my school. When he left, I was devastated. I felt like this teacher who really saw me and accepted me unconditionally, was being taken away. Because of my heartbreak, I could not adequately say goodbye and thank him for all that he’d done for me.
In the thirty years since, I’ve unsuccessfully tried to find Mr. Stanco on the inter webs. I hope to someday to find him and let him know that he made a difference in my life.
Thank you, Mr. Stanco. And thanks to all teachers who make a difference in a child’s life.”
Mrs. Kus was my middle school physical education & health teacher and my middle school volleyball coach. She created an atmosphere in PE where regardless of ability, we all found a way to love being active. And in health class, she approached the topic of sexual education (tee hee!) with ridiculous humor, exaggerating the awkwardness of it all… mostly so we didn’t have to feel self-conscious about our own awkward feelings toward and questions about the subject.
But the personal influence that Mrs. Kus had in my life was during my 8th grade year when we had a conversation helping me to weigh my future high school athletic options.
You see at Sweet Home High School (yes, that was truly the name of my school), girls volleyball was a powerhouse. One that saw many female athletes earning athletic scholarships to universities all over the country.
As an eight grader planning my future, I asked Mrs. Kus straight out if she thought that I could eventually be a scholarship volleyball student-athlete.
In her typical positive and humorous way, she painted the pathway of possibility as a volleyball player who is really good in a specific position, perhaps a setter or defensive specialist.
And she pointed to the reality of my genetics.
The tallest person in my family generously stood at 5’6. At the time, I was approximately 4’6 and needed friends’ help to reach items on the top shelf of my locker.
She painted the picture of the other path, highlighting the accolades that I had already earned as a field hockey player and then shared her own story. The legendary volleyball coach, Sally Kus, was a field hockey player. She confessed that she had learned the rules of volleyball out of a book after being asked by the athletic director if she would consider coaching.
Mrs. Kus encouraged me to choose with my heart, to put in the hard work, and I left that meeting feeling that whatever I decided to do, she believed in me, believed that I could reach my goal. I did eventually reach my 8th grader goal, and did it as a field hockey student-athlete.
I am so grateful for Mrs. Kus’s honesty and guidance, while also oozing confidence in me. Above all, she is a mentor and an educator. She cared for all of her players and her students. And made sure we all knew it.”
“I will never forget the year I fell in love with reading: 4th grade with Miss Polink. Everyday she read aloud to us from a novel: Island of the Blue Dolphins (a problematic choice and one I would no longer recommend), Charlotte’s Web, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…
I had already learned how to decode and read text, Miss Polink taught me that stories could take your breath away, provide an escape from reality, and transport you to another time and place. When we finished a novel she would loan it to me so I could reread it at home on my own.
I did not come from a family of readers. I am forever grateful that she shared her love of reading with me, a gift I treasure and cherish and aspire to share with others. Thank you, educators, for all of the read-alouds and the seeds they plant!”
“I am forever grateful for my 11th grade chemistry teacher, Mr. Michael Revison. Affectionately know as ‘Rev.’
Fair to say I was a late bloomer with school and Mr. Revision was the first teacher that helped me be excited about learning. He was a lot like Bill Nye the science guy. Lots of flash but incredible knowledgable. It was his passion for science that inspired me. Every day he had me captivated, curious, and consumed with the material. It wasn’t like that in other subjects. He was also a real person with personality and emotion. He also took a real interest in me. And he was the first teacher I felt I could just have a conversation with. I knew he cared about me and my success. Plus I emailed him a few years ago to say thank you and he remembered me. I am grateful for him.
Sometime you never know the true difference you make in someone’s life. But know you DO make a difference. Thank you for all you do educators. Keep inspiring!”