In the laundry room on Pointer Ridge Drive in Bowie, Maryland, where I grew up, my parents hung my large blackboard I got for Christmas. The laundry room was a good size, and the perfect place for me to set up my schoolroom. My aunt had given me a grade book she used when she was a teacher, and at the age of eight, I began practicing to be a teacher by writing on the board, planning lessons, and marking the imagined students’ grades in my grade book.
Mrs. Schuman and Ms. Cosby were my fourth grade teachers, and I watched how they conducted the class. I wanted to be just like them…teaching, interacting with the students, and grading papers.
When we moved to the Annapolis area and I attended Severna Park High School, it was Ms. Susek I adored. She taught the Creative Writing class I took, and I loved every second of it. Ms. Susek encouraged our creativity, expanded our knowledge by suggesting good pieces to read, and helped us tweak our short stories and poems. Mrs. Sheppard taught us Maryland history, and I recently ran into her in Severna Park. Guess what? She remembered me. That’s one heck of a teacher.
In college at Towson University, there were several professors who loved what they did, from Brenda Logue who taught communication courses to Barry Moore who taught film, and their excitement for the topics they instructed was contagious. But it was Dr. George Friedman, my graduate school professor, who made me love writing so much that I knew—at some point—I was going to publish something. Additionally, the way George conducted his class with respect and a sense of imagination and pure fun has always led me to ask the question in my own classroom: What would George do? Asking myself this question always leads me to the right answer.
Finally, there is the case of my mother who taught middle school until she retired. Seeing her influence her students in positive ways, watching how kids react when they run into her in Annapolis as adults now and give her big hugs and thank her for being their teacher—all off this touched me and made me want to pursue the occupation.
Two weeks ago, I was promoted to full professor at Stevenson University. I cannot tell you how touched and honored I am to have achieved that status. I’ve worked hard, but I wouldn’t do any of it if it weren’t for the students. They make coming to work pleasurable. They also made me realize that at the age of eight, I had pretty good instincts to know what was going to bring me joy as a career. And I couldn’t be happier.
To my public relations writing class this semester—you all made me teary when I walked in the room and you applauded my promotion. I will never forget that moment. Thank you so much.
To teachers everywhere—I appreciate what you do every single day. It’s a tough job that requires tons of work inside and outside the classroom, as well as sacrifices of your spare time. But what you do is important—and it touches many people’s lives whether they tell you or not.