Teacher Appreciation Week. Five days, in a row, during which all those moments in which folks in my profession have gratitude expressed to them for all the knowledge and time shared by those on the receiving end of education.
Where to begin for me? How about Ms. Lutz, who gave me my first starring role as Peter Pan in our kindergarten production. It was a mixed bag, to be sure, but her class was also the place where I fell in love with the water table and the sand box.
In first grade, Ms. Minger brought me into the brave new world of a full school day. I learned to print my name and cut with scissors. It was a place where I stored up a burst of creative energy that would be released the following year.
My second grade teacher, Ms. Hof, may have been the first to sense all the ideas that were swimming about in my head. She encouraged me to write my first story, "The Drunken Snake," as well as its follow-up "Snoopy Plays Quarterback For The Denver Broncos." I felt special in her class. In a good way.
Third grade with Ms. Pyle was another fallow year, in which I pined mightily for the relative freedom of Ms. Hof's class. But I did have Ms. Pyle to thank for two things: introducing me to protractors and being in her class meant I wasn't across the hall under the much more tempestuous and potentially dangerous rule of Ms. Dillon. She tied Michael Smith to a chair with a jump rope. At least that's what the kids in her class told me.
By fourth grade, I was fairly bursting with stories and pictures, and Ms. Stuart had a class library that surrounded us in bookcases that also lined the aisles and back wall. When I wasn't reading, I was writing and illustrating. "Arthur the Fish" and "Larry the Lion" was typed up and I added colorful cartoons with my Flair pens. I helped a my friend John Ingram with the design of his main character, Bubbles the Bear. I was an author.
I wasn't an author in Mr. Conklin's fifth grade class. I was the owner of a sawmill. And when I chose to study Germany as a country to represent and featured the Nazis as the focus of my presentation, Mr. Conklin slid me a copy of "The Diary of Anne Frank." It was a lesson I learned in a way that stuck. Forever.
While I was in fifth grade, I had my first brush with editorial cartooning. In Ms. Leonard's sixth grade class, that seed blossomed and I took on the Nixon administration with poems and limericks, all illustrated with a ski-slope of a nose and a bitterness some felt were beyond my years. It was in Ms. Leonard's class that I was allowed to practice my chess game and even produce a short film, "Drac Comes Back."
From there I ascended to the halls of junior high, where that kind of freedom was at a premium. Teachers came in bunches, and about the time I got comfortable with one, the bell would ring and I was off to the next. Mister Clements taught me Geography. Mister Whitehurst nursed my attempts at playing tuba. Frau Sargent taught me German. Mr. Crowley added a little magic to Life Science. And Coach Clark prepared me for the ugly realities of junior high PE. I appreciate every one of them as well as all those who came in to help build the bridge to where I sit now. Behind the desk in my own classroom. Looking for those bright spots and shining up the dull ones. I appreciate the opportunity to be that for someone else.