There are 2 teachers who were instrumental in my life, one from elementary and one from high school. First, Shirley Brown. When I was in 2nd grade, I almost died at my elementary school halloween carnival when I was run over by the wheels of a moving hayride. I’m still legally blind in one eye from that accident, but what I remember most that year was my teacher who gave me a lifetime of inspiration. It was how and what she taught us and had nothing to do with my accident, but when I think about any disability I have I remember how able bodied she was from her wheelchair. I wish I could find her to thank her personally. I don’t think I knew how at that time. She was always rolling around in the class to write our assignments on the board, take us to lunch, etc. I watched her arrive at school early before school and later after school as she departed. She had a specially designed car that allowed her to drive with her special abilities. I refuse to say disabilities because she was able in every way that mattered to me. The custodian lifted her in and out of her car, from wheelchair to car and vice verse. Every day. I don’t remember having a substitute that year except for my mother being there to fill in and assist at times. I was intrigued, and never felt sorry for her, but only very proud that she was my teacher. Two things I learned from her…Number one–be sensitive to the feelings of others. This was her lesson on valentine’s day when she insisted that we give valentines to everyone if we gave them to anyone, so no one would be left out. She also taught us to Never Ever cheat. It was important to her that we never take test answers from someone else. She told us whoever chooses to cheat is really mainly cheating self, because if something isn’t earned honestly, it can never be fully appreciated. Shirley Brown, wherever you are, you are my hero. …….There are so many teachers I remember fondly when I reflect on those years from first grade up through post graduate courses. I must mention one other high school teacher from my senior year, Mrs. Lois Wheeler. She taught an AP class I had in the social sciences department, the name of the class escapes me, but it was designed to allow us discussion of current events as well as future plans beyond high school. She taught each of us respect as if we were already adults. This was the way she led by example. She listened intently to what each of us had to contribute and was so gracious as she allowed each one of us to express ourselves in discussion, thoroughly enjoying what we each had to say. She never seemed bored and she seemed to appreciate so fully everything around her. In an extracurricular event, I sang that year in a talent show and was heckled from some audience member who shouted out a racial slur because I happen to date someone from another race. I worked after school assisting the Social Studies Department Chairperson, who happened to be Mrs. Wheeler. She let me know several times that day how much she appreciated my song and my performance and how much she detested the behavior of that particular student whose shout out interrupted my song. I really didn’t care about that behavior because I had become accustomed to it, mostly tuning it out. She stressed to me how she and many other teachers in the department were very disappointed in the behavior of that one rude voice and they all wanted me to know that they enjoyed my song. I miss Mrs. Wheeler and even though I know she has passed many years ago, I will take with me all that I learned from her which included a gracious loving spirit I will never forget. To Shirley Brown, Lois Wheeler, and all those teachers who meant so much to me–I thank you and your families because I know that teachers in general, make sacrifices that take from family time in an underpaid profession. Thank you teachers for paying it forward! Students and parents of students will never forget your contributions, your hard work, and your dedication.

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