Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Standout Teacher

When I was in high school a long, long time ago, I had the honor of having a couple of teachers who stood out from the rest.  Yes, these teachers were getting paid to teach, but they had also made it their mission to make a difference in children’s lives. While I can pinpoint the contributions each of these teachers worked so tirelessly to make, there was one who was a force to be reckoned with. She was a hard taskmaster and she did not accept halfhearted attempts at homework.

Mrs. Betty Stapleton

She was known for prodding, pushing, and shoving you, kicking and screaming if need be, into digging deeper inside of yourself. She was the teacher that when you picked up your class schedule and you saw her name, you would groan at what was to come. When your friends saw whose class you had been placed in, they would pat you on the back while telling you everything would be okay.

She was Mrs. Betty Stapleton, an English teacher on a mission to educate above and beyond the norm. On the first day of class, your fears were realized. She threw down the gauntlet and challenged you before the class roll was ever called.

Her goal was to challenge you to think beyond the printed words on a page. If, in a piece of literature, there was a scent described, she wanted you to be able to smell it. If there was an emotion, she wanted you to feel it. And if there was a noise, you were to hear it.

To this day I can hear her reading Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” to our class. The way she read the poem made it come to life. It was no longer a required assignment with weird, old world language we were being forced fed. It became a fascinating piece of literature which drew us into its rhyming stanzas and dramatic prose.

Mrs. Stapleton not only drew us into the world of classical literature, she also taught us to reach deep within our souls when we wrote our own essays. It definitely was no easy task for her to try and get me, a guarded redhead, to dig deep and open up my soul for others to see.

Her words of encouragement were very uplifting, but she utterly flabbergasted me when she told me she enjoyed reading my written work. It was the first time a teacher had ever told me they enjoyed my work. I, an overly verbose redhead with a relatively poor grasp of grammar, was left speechless. Her class was one of the hardest I have ever taken, and yet the most rewarding.

The level of encouragement she provided saw me through my college years and sticks with me to this day. While looking for a way to contact her to thank her, I discovered she passed away in 2002. I did not even consider this possibility when I began my search and was surprised at how sad I felt when I made the discovery. I wish I could thank her personally for her tireless dedication and for making an imprint on my soul, but I waited too long.

Do you have a teacher who lit a spark within you? Someone who went above and beyond the norm? I would love to hear your stories! If you have ever felt the desire to let that special teacher know how big of a difference they made in your life, don't wait.  Let them know now.

Christie Bielss

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