Nicholas Reed


The Impact of a Great Teacher

According to the book, All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum, all of life's lessons can be summed up by what we learned in kindergarten. I would have to agree. The teachers and experiences I had in elementary school shaped my attitude towards learning and school. My first and second-grade teachers probably had the most profound impact on me teaching me that it is okay to be different, you should always challenge yourself to be better, and you should want to learn, not have to learn.

Both Mr. Stafford in first grade and Mrs. Ebling in second grade, taught me that it is okay, even good, to be different. This has allowed me to be the best person I can be. In eighth-grade, we were studying poetry and writing poems of our own. Where most people would never talk about religion in a school setting, my attitude of not caring what other people think of me allowed me to write about my faith, which I am passionate about, which in turn produced great poetry. Another way which this attitude has helped me is that it has allowed me to set my own moral compass. Where most people my age worry about fitting in with their friends, I put my values first, and if my friends can't accept that, they cannot hang out with me. I have decided that even when I am of legal age, I will not drink, I will not smoke, and I will not do illegal drugs. I don't impose these choices on others; I ask only that they respect my choices and I will in turn respect theirs.

Another way a teacher has influenced my attitude toward school and learning was when Mr. Stafford allowed students to work at their own level but encouraged us to challenge ourselves. At the beginning of first grade, I was getting one-hundred percent on every spelling test so he asked if I would like a harder list and I said yes so he looked up second-grade spelling lists. I did those each week for a while, but even those were still too easy, so he had me do third-grade spelling lists instead. Even though I was the only one at that level, he took the time to make a separate list just for me and test me separately each week because that is what I needed to be challenged. This attitude has stuck with me ever since. Mrs. Ebling also encouraged me to challenge myself seeing my abilities rather than my disabilities. For instance, it was not unusual for me to have written just a paragraph when other students had a page and a half. Also more often than not, my handwriting was borderline legible, my paper was crumpled, and covered in stray marks. Where other teachers might have not even bothered to try to read it due to its messiness, she read it and realized how much effort I put into getting just a paragraph down. Both Mr. Stafford's and Mrs. Ebling's attitude influenced me later, as I prepared for high school. When it came time to choose my classes, I was given the opportunity to take Advanced English. I could have easily decided that I couldn't do it and not even tried, I do have a diagnosed writing disability. But instead I challenged myself to be better, and I found that not only could I pass Advanced English, I excelled. All because I was taught early on that I should always challenge myself and that my disabilities only had as much power as I give them over me.

Finally, something Mr. Stafford frequently said which stuck with me was "Learning shouldn't be something you have to do, it should be something you want to do." This simple phrase has made me want to learn more because it usually preceded one of his fun lessons. For example, he showed us how spelling could be fun. One time he had each student come up with a word to make a spelling list for him. We had to be able to spell and pronounce it, so I looked up the longest word in the dictionary and came up with floccinaucinihilipilification. If he got all the words right, we would have to wash his car. However, if he got any wrong, he would make popcorn for the class. In the end, he got all the words right, So we had to wash his "toaster oven" which turned out to be pretty fun, but he also made popcorn for us. In addition to Mr. Stafford Mrs. Ebling also had a way of making school seem magical, for example during Halloween a "magic" broom came to the classroom and stirred up all sorts of mischief. Around Saint Patrick's Day a leprechaun came in, and at the end, it left a colorful stone in our desk which she called wishing stones. All these experiences made me love school. I never skip class, and it takes a lot for me to stay home sick even to this day.

What I learned from Mr. Stafford and Mrs. Ebling continues to influence my attitude toward school and learning in general. The lessons taught me to always want to learn, to challenge myself, and that it is okay to be different. That is what I learned from my early teachers.