“The Best Teacher I’ve Ever Had”

by Patrick Esty

Ms. Johnson was the name, or at least that’s what I think it was. It was such a long time ago—fourth grade, I think—but I still remember her because she had such a powerful influence on my life. When I started school, I was an average person with just enough enthusiasm as everyone else on the block, but after the fourth grade, I was full of energy. Ms. Johnson want you to succeed and supported you as an individual person to be the best you would be. I remember the very first week of the school year. It is so vivid in my mind.

“You better GET in that chair right away!” she yelled, and I sat down as if I were mounting a horse. She went on and pointed me out with her pencil while taking attendance. “Do you know how to sit BOY! You better GET UP and TRY again!” 

I did.

After taking attendance, she gave one of the most important speeches I have ever listened to in my life. “Hello, my  name is Ms. Johnson – not ‘Miss,’ not ‘Johnson,’ ‘John,’ ‘teacher,’ or ‘son,’ — Ms. Johnson. You raise your hand when you want to talk and ask me if you want to move, and when i say ‘Jump,’ you better ask me, ‘How high?’” She sure knew how to discipline her pupils, but she had another side to her that was more civilized and controlled. THis side was much stronger than her first. 

“… But there’s one thing you all have to learn before the year starts. It’s a thing you were born with, ‘common sense.’ Everybody has it, because if you don’t have it, you weren’t born!”

Then someone in the class asked her why she walked on a crutch. She answered in a low voice. “I broke my left leg trying to stop a fight. That’s what happens when people don’t use their common sense. They injure others as well as themselves.”

I think Ms. Johnson was the most powerful force in Engleberg Elementary School. Everyone who went through the school could tell you bout her. She taught everyone self-control. It is rare if you ever see someone from Engleberg start a fight or be involved in a crime. In fact, if it weren’t for her, many people I know wouldn’t be in school any more. She was not only a good teacher who taught discipline, but she was a great teacher who knew math, reading and writing skills. Being taught by Ms. Johnson is an experience no one forgets. 

One day, she got all of the students to enter a writing contest. I, being a lazy person since kindergarten, didn’t do it until the very last day it was due. You should have seen it! I scribbled together some really interesting stuff in those 24-hours, and knowing Ms. Johnson, I thought she wouldn’t like it at all. Boy, was I surprised.

“Patrick,” she said to me in private as I came to school one morning, “that was a  very good essay you wrote.” My mouth hung wide open. “Really!” I said with a  excited voice. “I thought it was terrible.” “No. 1 think you have some talent and I’m going to enter it in the city-level for competition.”

She did. Three months later, a gold medal came into my hands and she congratulated me. “You never know how good you are until you try. You are more than you think you are, Patrick. I want to see you do more…”

When I brought that gold medal home with me that night, my parents were “proud, proud, PROUD!” I could almost cry. I could almost laugh. I could hug Ms. Johnson, the one-legged lady, and only thank her for her tremendous support to raise my ego.

Today, I have received two good citizenship awards, hundreds of class achievements and perfect attendance certificates, and will graduate as class valedictorian in high school. Just think. Without her, I would be just an average guy. She helped me in my life tremendously.

by Renate Gray

Wanda Raven, Ms. Raven to those of us who are her students, is who I call the “Best Teacher” I’ve ever had. Her teaching style, personality and her desire to help me to succeed are the three qualities that l admire most about her.

Teaching styles vary greatly among teachers of different subjects as well as teachers of different grade levels. I was first introduced to Ms. Raven my sophomore year of high school when I became a student in her biology class. In the beginning she was like any other teacher, same grading scale, same class objectives. Yet after the first couple of days I could tell that she was different. When teaching she did her best to make us understand, not help us understand. If she felt you needed help she would allow time in her schedule to fit you in. being in a school where there is a lot of competition among the students made me seek her out even for the smallest problems. She was always there to help me and make me learn. 

When you picture how many people you come in contact with and how many teachers you’ve had, still have and will have in the future you realize how impersonal the relationships are. Ms. Raven’s intent seemed to be that she wanted to get to know each student so she could help with school or personal problems. I happened to stop to talk to her one day and that’s when I discovered what a nice personality she had. She greets me every time I see her and shares a few words. It was that sophomore year that I began having problems that I needed to talk about. I decided to seek some advice and help. Ms. Raven was always around to talk to listen. Her ability to listen is one part of her personality that stands out the most. She always found time to listen and no matter what was said she took it all to heart’, even the smallest, silliest problem. She never repeated what was said. Giving good, sound advice and helping to make me talk things out are two more qualities that I admire. Though most teachers would stop there, she didn’t. When she needed to talk she sought me out and confided a lot in me. Some might take that as a burden, I didn’t. I felt that if she could listen to me then I could do the same. Never have I had a teacher like that. 

When the school year ends, I usually have no further contact with my teachers. Ms. Raven came to me again my year of high school and asked if I needed help. I shared a few of my career goals with her and found out that she had a lot of knowledge from past experience about one of my future goals. Whenever I had a question or a doubt about something relating to school or college I could always find her and discuss it with her. Whenever she’d come across an article or literature pertaining to a career she would make sure I received a copy of it. These types of things express a desire to help me succeed and I’m grateful for that.

I’d like to finish by saying that I’ve never before come across a person like Ms. Raven. Her personality outshines those of most teachers. Her desire for my success in life seems only surpassed by my parents, family and the staff of Upward Bound. Her ability to teach and her process of teaching is a great help to me and to others. To me Ms. Raven is the Best Teacher” I’ve ever had.

by Dwight Thomas

During all the years of my education to date, there have been many teachers that have got me to the level of education I’ve reached today. I’m going to tell you about the best teacher I think I will ever have. Mr. Birmingham was the greatest influence on me because the way he taught the class was at a level where everybody could catch the topic of discussion. He would help you out with problems in and out of school. He also would tell you his feelings straight from the heart. Mr. Birmingham’s teachings were in a “class” all by themselves.

When you entered seventh hour history, you knew everything that was going on. “Mr. Birm,” as we would call him, refused to let a person get behind the rest of the class.

He went by the motto, “If the ship is hit, everyone on board goes down.” Mr. Birm would go back to items to help that unfortunate student catch on. If that didn’t work, we would read the chapter over until everyone caught on. Mr. Birm not only cared about studies, but he would be there for you when it was a problem out of school.

If a student ever had a problem and had no one to turn to, you could always turn to room 337. Mr. Birm would be there to discuss even the most delicate problem in a mature and understanding manner. If you needed to borrow money, he would give it to you with absolutely no complaints. I know he’s helped me out a number of times. You may think because he was nice he was a push-over, I doubt it highly. 

If there is one thing I remember very well about Mr. Birm, it was that he was never afraid to express his feelings. If he saw something done he didn’t like, he’d tell you. He couldn’t stand for horsing around. I don’t think he ever felt sorry for a student he told off either. This shows me he not only has the utmost respect for the students, but he respected himself. These are the characteristics of a great teacher. 

I will remember Mr. Birmingham for the rest of my life, for he has taught me many things. Respect for not only others but myself. To help others as I would want them to help me. He also did a good job of teaching history, too. Mr. Birmingham is definitely my all-time best teacher.