I recently attended a professional development session where teachers were asked to draw a picture of what a quality educator looks like. I sat in the quieted room, completely brain-fried from a day of teaching and having a hard time thinking what that looks like. After a minute or two, thoughts began to flood my mind of teachers with exceptional traits needed order to make an impact inside and out of the classroom.
There have been many teachers of whom I reflect upon fondly. Many have challenged me, supported me, and have taught me many lessons. There are two teachers who rise above the rest when considering who made the largest impact on my life as a student.
One was my high school choir director. I had been encouraged by a fellow classmate to audition for choir. Having zero experience, I was pretty nervous. My teacher had high expectations for excellence challenged me to strive to do my best. I was exposed to a variety of music, culture, and talent that I would never had experienced if it had not been inside (and out) of that classroom. Through his encouragement and guidance, I gained confidence, learned how to prioritize my needs vs. desires, and try new things. Never once did I believe in myself or see myself in the manner in which he saw me. I sang, participated in choral events, auditioned and was cast in musicals, and more importantly, I found a passion within myself that would have remained untapped if it were not for this teacher in my life.
The second was one of my college professors. At good ol’ Adams State University, I entered a classroom as a freshman filled with excitement, apprehension, and fear of the unknown. When I walked into my Interrelations of the Arts class, my professor greeted me with a handshake, smile, and promptly addressed me by my last name, “Good afternoon, Miss Patrone.” He addressed everyone by their last names and did so in a manner that made me feel like an adult; I felt respected as a college student, leaving the old high school years behind. In his class, we explored the cross relation of art through music, plays, literature, etc. It was one of the most invigorating experiences of my undergraduate career. In that class I was able to be engaged in the conversation, share my ideas, and feel validated for thinking, sharing, and experiencing.
If I could bottle up the essence of these two teachers, I would. I would give it away to all teachers at the beginning of the year and include the note, “Use wisely.” The essence of these two teachers has impacted me so that I feel indebted to them for taking a chance on me, supporting me, and rooting for me. The best cheerleaders in my life, aside from my family, have been these two teachers. I would say that is an essential part of who I am now as an educator.
I strive to be a cheerleader for my students, to guide them, encourage them, and expose them to a variety of learning opportunities. I hope that my students will one day look upon me fondly. I hope that I will have not just done enough, but done more than enough. The reality is that I may not be that teacher for every student, but I sure can hope, I sure can try, and I sure can look upon my past educators who have that essence, quality and keep dreaming, keep trying, keep learning, and keep sharing my passion with my students and colleagues.
Mena T. Hill
Educator, Wife, Mother, Colorado Native