My friend Linda works in human resources for the school system down here in Orlando and we got to talking the other day about what makes a good teacher. She looks for certain things in potential teachers such as a bona-fide degree, no arrest warrants, decent personal hygiene, etc. My idea of the perfect teacher is more specific.
Here are a few examples of terrific teachers and why I classify them as such:
? Mr. Tom Ferguson, my World Civilization teacher freshman year at OPRF, opened up a new world for me in that he taught me to always question those in charge and continually open myself up to new ideas.
? Mrs. Leatherwood, kindergarten teacher at Emerson, showed tenderness and embraced each child for their individuality.
? Mrs. Lois Allaway, first and second grade teacher at Emerson, was “nice.” That’s what I called her in my little diary, “Nice Mrs. Allaway.” She was exactly what I needed after being transferred from the classroom of MEAN MRS. F___ who liked to wash out mouths with soap and stick those she didn’t like behind the piano all day.
? The pretty, young art teachers at OPRF around 1970-’72 whose names I can’t remember (Sandra Grassi??) who said I had talent. They were being kind.
? Mrs. Susan Norborg, third and fourth grade teacher at Emerson for a very short time around 1963, played the guitar and taught us folk songs about the world beyond Oak Park.
? Mr. Leslie, the vocal music teacher at Emerson, made me feel good about myself when I had to wear a back brace for scoliosis and the other kids called it “The Can.”
The commonality here is that I believe a good teacher brings out the best in a kid. It’s not always possible to give each child the individual attention he or she needs, but the above individuals somehow made it happen.