I’ve had some great ones over the years. Mrs. Metcalfe encouraged my creativity and allowed us to put on our own insane fifth-grade version of The Phantom Of The Opera. My middle school teacher, Miss Wilkinson, encouraged lively political debate and wept openly while reading us Sadako And The Thousand Paper Cranes. Mr. Chow’s dry sense of humour made the multiplication of fractions tolerable. And John Lazarus and I stayed in email touch years after I took his playwrighting course in university.
But it’s my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Williams, who will be my forever-favourite.
Mrs. Williams was kind, patient, fair, calm and much loved. She read us stories, taught us to count to 100 on an abacus and never once raised her voice. I remember her gentle amusement whenever one of us would slip up and call her “mom.”
A few weeks ago, I was unexpectedly reunited with Mrs. Williams. She looked like a smaller and greyer version of her very same self. The rush of emotion I felt at seeing her again surprised me.
For my friend Neil Pasricha, blogger and author of the freshly launched feel-good tome The Book Of Awesome, it was his third grade teacher who stood out above the rest.
“I was pretty much the shyest kid ever,” Pasricha recalls. “I hid behind pant legs, around corners, or even under my desk. I was massively quiet and kept to myself â€” barely a peep coming out of me all day long. Other teachers encouraged me to come out of my shell, but Mrs. Dorsman really yanked me out.”
Mrs. Dorsman encouraged Pasricha to read out loud to the class and had him solve math problems on the blackboard.
“Once I did some of the things she pushed me to … I realized I could. She upped my confidence and turned me into (someone who was) slightly less wobbly and slightly more sure.”
Having recently read an article on The Book Of Awesome in the Toronto Star, Stella Dorsman contacted the author to see if he was the same Neil Pasricha she taught at Sunset Heights Public School. You can read their correspondence here: http://1000awesomethings.com (April 16th post).
Teaching is a difficult and often thankless job. If you’ve ever had a teacher who made a difference in your life, thank them. It will mean the world.
Sofi Papamarko is a 20-something writer based in Toronto. Her heroes include Desmond Morris and Nancy Sinatra.