As January draws to a close, I am weighed down by negativity, angst, fear, frustration and, who am I kidding, probably an extra 20 pounds. But I have the power to change all of that, and so I will begin today.
For me, 2017 will be a journey of gratitude. And my first step takes me back to fourth grade at St. Margaret’s Grammar School in Syracuse, New York.
Having been taught solely by Franciscan nuns for first through third grades, Miss Crader was a game changer for me. She had long dark hair that she would toss over her shoulders just like Cher. And she wore these big silver hoop earrings that were like nothing I ever saw up close before. I’d sit at my desk with my Dorothy Hamill haircut and unblemished earlobes thinking, “I can’t wait to grow up.”
She was the first person I ever heard say, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.” She engaged every student in that classroom and made you feel as if your success was all she cared about. She was kind. She was smart. She willingly shared her faith. She had a great sense of humor and the respect of every one of her students.
I’m glad I stayed scrolling through Facebook long enough to see she is retiring because my gratitude journey will begin with her and take me on a mental walk down memory lane to all the teachers who have impacted my life so dramatically. Mrs. Barber, in the seventh grade, who taught us the art of speechwriting and who taught me to love public speaking. Ms. Cooper, who in high school opened my eyes to critical writing and, in doing so, opened my mind to critical thinking. And Dr. Badaracco, who my freshman year at Marquette, lovingly knocked me off my high horse and taught me how to survive in the real world.
I am grateful for the men and women who choose teaching as their vocation. I am lucky enough to know some who share their gifts in the public school system. I have met teachers and administrators making a dramatic impact on student’s lives in Detroit’s Charter Schools. And I have a lifetime of memories from those lay and religious that have shared God’s gifts with me, my husband and our children in Catholic schools.
It’s been forty years since I sat in Miss Crader’s classroom. I can still picture the view out her window. I can recall the smell of the desktop from when we would play Seven Up. I can visualize the walk we would take to the library–single file and silent. But, above all, I am keenly aware of the impact she had on the person I am today. For that, I am forever grateful.
And, I think it’s about time I tell her that too.
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” –Albert Schweitzer