By Gloria Jones Ellis, M.A. – Educational Therapist & Co-Founder of Lighthouse Homeschool Solutions
People often think of this time of year as a time for giving thanks. We all have gifts in our life for which we are thankful- the love and support of family and friends, or the security of a job and a home, or experiences that we cherish. Now is also a good time to think about the educators, in your child’s life or your own, for whom you are grateful.
I often differentiate between a “teacher” and an “educator” because, to me, being a teacher is a job, while being an educator is a way of interacting with students. Educators will find the fun, “teachable moments” in all things. They have a love for knowledge and they wish to share it with those around them. Not all educators teach as a profession, and not all teachers are educators.
As a student, I’ll always remember my favorite teachers. While, in my own life, many teachers did an adequate job of imparting information and teaching me the facts and skills I needed to pass tests, move onto the next grade or progress to the next level, and get accepted into college and graduate school, the true educators are the ones who taught me the most. They are the ones who seemed incredibly knowledgeable, connected with and demonstrated respect for their students, and made learning fun. They weren’t necessarily teaching the subjects that came most easily to me or the subjects in which I received the best grades (far from it), but they engaged me in genuine, thoughtful learning, and I will be thankful for them, always.
There was my kindergarten teacher, Miss Gruener, who believed me to be a gifted learner and warmly encouraged me, one of the only students of color in a sea of white faces, during a time and in a place where other teachers judged me as lacking from the start. There was my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Jordan, with the infectious laugh and the fun games and prizes. There was my 8th grade history teacher, Mr. Manat, who came to class dressed in period costume to teach his history lessons. In 10th grade, it was my geometry teacher, Mr. Stemshorn, who loved math so much that he’d dance with glee while explaining some beautiful mathematical concept! Senior year, my Great Books seminar with Mr. Bachman challenged me and my classmates to develop our critical thinking and argue our opinions. My Cognitive Science professor in my senior year of college, Dr. Christiansen, somehow took a confusing subject and made it accessible; I found her to be so brilliant that I was almost completely intimidated! And in graduate school, my Psychology of Personality professor, Dr. Dell, initially annoyed me with the way he would turn every questions from our peers back on us to discuss and debate, until I learned to value the way he believed in our ability to reach valid conclusions through our own discussions. The way he guided us in learning, while saying very little himself, changed the way I view “teaching” forever!
I actually received some of my lowest grades from my favorite teachers, but it didn’t bother me. I prefer the C I received in Cognitive Science to the easy A that I received in Developmental Psychology because the material was tough for me and I worked so hard!
I was consistently engaged and learning with all of my favorite teachers. I respected them, and I felt their genuine respect for their students. I appreciated their intellect and knowledge, but I also always felt that they respected and appreciated my own. Their love for their subject areas of expertise ignited my own love for the subjects they taught! To me, these teachers were all models of what it means to be an educator. When teaching is more than just a job- when it’s a love for a subject combined with respect for learners and passion for educating, well… these are the educators who make a lifelong impact on students!
Here at Lighthouse Learning Solutions, we are thankful for all of the educators who go above and beyond for their students, and who have made and continue to make a positive impact for their students! Please reach out to us if you’re looking for assistance in understanding and addressing learning challenges in your classroom.