Who was your favorite teacher from elementary school to high school? Do you remember the name? My guess is although time has passed, the name and the influence of that teacher remain until today.
It was the late summer of 1970 and my first day of first grade at Balmoral Elementary School in Chicago’s far south suburbs. There I met Mrs. Humeister, my first grade teacher. She was old, like really old, at least that’s how she appeared to my five-year-old eyes.
I quickly learned first grade was different than kindergarten. No more half days of school. No more naps on a rag-strip blanket. This was the real deal, and it was going to be this way for a long time. I had eleven more grades to endure after this one. Why can’t we just play baseball, ride our bikes, catch frogs in the drainage pond, and bother our little sisters?
I don’t know anything about Mrs. Humeister’s personal life. I can’t tell you if she was married or had children of her own. I have no idea what happened to her after I left the first grade. What I do know is that she provided me an amazing experience that ignited a love for learning, especially reading.
She introduced me to great literature like Fun with Dick and Jane and anything written by Dr. Suess. Her small classroom library was a field full of treasures waiting to be discovered. There I found The Sugar Creek Gang and something called a dictionary.
On her shelves was the greatest treasure I had ever seen. Twenty volumes of something called The World Book Encyclopedia contained for me all the knowledge in the world. Volume 1 told me everything there was to know about words and ideas that began with the letter A. Volume 20 compressed all the knowledge of the letters W, X, Y, and Z. I figured if four letters could fit into one volume, then those letters must not have much to offer.
On those pages were words I didn’t understand and pictures of astronauts and atoms, bears and brains, cars and computers, diamonds and dirt, engines and epilepsy, fire and fog, and on and on. Every page revealed something new and often more amazing than the page before.
I do not know if Mrs. Humeister was a Christian. I hope so. I’d love to meet her again in heaven. What I do know is God used an old woman to help a young boy find fascination in all that God created, whether that was her intention or not.
Can you do that with others? Can you help them find and discover in the creation the wonder that is the infinite imagination of God?
Mrs. McDaniel was the lead English teacher at Oak Forest Christian Academy. My parents moved my sister and me from Balmoral Elementary School to OFCA for my third grade year. We would complete our educations in a Christian School.
My sophomore year of high school I sat at a desk and in front of me stood Mrs. Marni McDaniel. Her husband was our school principal. His reputation is legendary, and his outer layer was like dragon’s hide. Mrs. McDaniel was the polar opposite. Her petite frame, cropped red hair, and gracious demeanor met us daily for grammar, vocabulary, spelling, literature, and writing. I quickly grew to love Mrs. McDaniel.
She was a demanding teacher without the demanding personality – what a great skill to possess. Her assignments were challenging but fair. She knew her craft, and she was a master at it. In hindsight she was probably the best teacher of any subject in our school and one of the two or three best teachers I’ve had at any level. We were fortunate to have her.
Well into the school year, Mrs. McDaniel moved on from the eight parts of speech to the discipline and skill of writing. As a fourteen-year-old kid, I had no idea what she was contributing to my life.
She challenged my classmates and me to write. We wrote journals and research papers, fiction and poetry, short paragraphs and lengthy tomes. Before long I discovered I liked putting pen to paper and retelling an experience or articulating an idea.
Like I said, she was demanding. I submitted a writing assignment and was anxious for its return. Across the top of the page in bright red ink was the letter B. “B? I thought. This isn’t a B paper.” At the bottom of the page, she explained the B reflected the good content but the poor discipline in spelling, vocabulary, and grammar. Her B was probably generous. If I wanted an A grade, I would need to submit A work. Tough but fair. Demanding with a smile.
The skills Mrs. McDaniel taught me have been my weekly routine for nearly 40 years. From class assignments to dissertation, it was the work of Mrs. McDaniel that made it possible. Every sermon I write, every weekly post I pen, every card to a church member, and every letter to my wife or children is because of what Mrs. McDaniel did for me. I owe her a significant debt.
Paul tells us that our Lord Jesus gave to the church gifted people called teachers (Ephesians 4:11). Neither Mrs. Humeister nor Mrs. McDaniel fit perfectly into a correct interpretation of Paul’s instruction. However, both ladies were gifted by God to do what they so skillfully did. God used them greatly in my life.
This is Teacher Appreciation Week. I love teachers. My mom was a teacher. My wife was a teacher. My daughter is a teacher. My daughter-in-law is a teacher. Many of my closest friends are teachers, and many of the people for whom I have the greatest appreciation are teachers. I love each of them.
In the mind of God, he provided for us a way to discover truth and ideas about his creation. We can know truth. We do not need to wander in the darkness looking for answers. Instead, there are among us those who teach us art, history, philosophy, music, the wide array of mathematics and science, history, language, literature, and applied sciences and most importantly, the truth about God as revealed in his word, the Bible. Whatever their area of expertise, these people possess unique gifts from God which benefit all of us.
Be sure to thank a teacher this week, and be sure to thank God for another of his many gifts to us - teachers.
As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.