It’s teacher appreciation week and social media is humming with tributes to great mentors and educators. A few years ago, I wrote about the best teacher I ever had and about how I wished I’d had the chance to tell Mr. Pepper about the impact he had on my life.
When I became a dad and my kids neared school age, I hoped they’d have a teacher like Jack Pepper – one who knew when to be firm, knew when to be loving and knew how to reach and teach children.
A few years into their school careers, I can honestly say that my wish has already come true.
For six straight years, my family has been fortunate to have an MPS teacher who just may be the best my kids will ever have – though I hope she’s just the first in a long line of similarly dedicated, caring, smart, no-nonsense teachers who will instill knowledge, critical thinking, confidence and independence in my children.
I will not name her here, because I know her well enough by now to know that it might make her uncomfortable. But she – and her principal and colleagues – know who she is, and that’s all that matters.
When my shy kid was in her room, she nudged him gently along. When he spaced off, gazing out the window, she kindly redirected him. When he gave her a wallet-size print of his class picture, she put it on the wall. Years later it’s still there, joined now by a picture of his sibling, who entered the room as he exited.
That kid brought a different spirit to school, but our teacher has worked hard to focus and guide and nurture that personality, too. When tough love is needed, tough love is dealt. When encouragement is required, encouragement is given. When incentive will work, incentive is provided. When praise will do the trick, there is praise.
Even on a tough love day, when it might be hardest for them to see, I think my kids know they are in the daily care of someone who loves them. And I’m sure they’ll understand and appreciate later that their teacher was willing to do whatever it took to get them ready to face the world.
And they will hope that their own children will have a teacher as great as the one they were lucky to know.