On Appreciating Teachers – for Teacher Appreciation Day or Week

 By Toby Klein Greenwald

Toby head shot wedding smiling

“Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well.”
                                                                         ? Aristotle

“There are two kinds of teachers: the kind that fill you with so much quail shot that you can't move, and the kind that just gives you a little prod behind and you jump to the skies.”
? Robert Frost

Since I've already written about advocating for your children in school, when they aren't lucky enough to get teachers who are all perfection, I think the least I can do is write about teachers I had who I appreciate.

I should add here that I'm a teacher, too, and nothing makes my day like meeting a student from years ago who told me I changed his/her life. But this post is about others. And as I reread it, I realize that the teachers who I remember best are the ones who had faith in me, who were fun in some way, who taught me lessons in life, not just in the subject matter, and who were role models. This is only Grades 1-12. College will wait for another post!

At the end, there is plenty of space in the comments for you to add your own thank you's! Please do!

So here goes:

  • I appreciate Mrs. Fredman, my second grade teacher at Millikin Elementary School, in Cleveland Heights, about whom I remember almost nothing other than the fact that she always spoke with a soft voice. She also published my first poem in our class newspaper that year. And I remember that she came to school in maternity clothes from which I learned that one can work and be pregnant at the same time.
  •  I appreciate my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Wood, at the same school. She was strict but with a twinkle in her eye. That was the only year (until my M.A. degree) that I got straight A's. (Okay, it was also the year my parents experimented with taking the TV out of the house.)


  • I appreciate my 7th grade Chemistry teacher at Monticello Junior High (whose name I don't remember, but who was always happy and excited about what we were learning) and my 10th grade Biology teacher, Mrs. Betty Neustadter, at the Hebrew Academy. In both their classes, I loved science. In the 7th grade, I remember biking all over Cleveland, with a friend, looking for a store that would sell us mercury so we could prove it possible to separate it (presumably on my mother's stove), in spite of the fact that scientists said it couldn't be done. (Surprise: nobody sells mercury to 12-year-olds.) In Mrs. Neustadter's class, we pricked our fingers to get our blood types (I learned that my blood type is O-, the universal giver), she didn't force us to dissect frogs and she spoke to us as if we were adults.


  • I appreciate my 9th-10th grade French teacher, Mrs. Gladys Kraus. I struggled to maintain a C, but totally imbibed the spirit of French (and kindness) from her.


  • I appreciate my 10th grade Geometry teacher, Mrs. Jokinen. She seemed to just "flow" in class, and didn't really act like a teacher. It was the only high school year in which I got an A in math, I think because Geometry entailed drawing pictures.


  • I appreciate my 11th grade English teacher, Mrs. Kadish, who was not only a scintillating teacher, but fun to look at, since she always dressed with full make-up  and spike heels. And she accepted, as a paper on Macbeth, a little booklet that I wrote as if it were a play, with accompanying facing notes.  A confession: I thought the book Mayor of Casterbridge was boring, never read the whole thing, and faked the exam.


  • I appreciate my 12th grade English teacher and English yearbook advisor (I was the English editor), Mrs. Judith Oster, who taught me more about plunging the depths of poetry and how to edit and self-edit than I could ever put in one blog.  One of her famous lines, when we said we didn't have time to read, was, "My father used to say to me, 'What do you do between four and six in the morning?'" I have passed that on to many generations of children and students.


  • I appreciate all  my teachers in Hebrew/Religious schools, who taught me about God, destiny  and belief. They are too numerous to name. That will be a separate blog some day.

I had planned on writing about my children's teachers, who I appreciate, but my kids can write their own blog (or add their comments, below).

A colleague of mine posted the fact that, "Even though around 75% say that a past teacher had a direct impact on their future success, only 25% of respondents have ever sent a gift or thank you card to a teacher." You can read more about that survey at Kars4Kids.

Please add comments, below, about teachers who YOU appreciate! Either your own, or your children's.

And then drop them a line, telling them so.

Have a great day.

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