Inspired by a Teacher
One year during an in-service at the beginning of school, the administration showed a film called The Zero. It was about a middle school boy who stepped off the school bus, laid down in the snow, and died. Not one teacher remembered him, even though he had gone to the school since kindergarten. Watching that film, I saw myself. I was a barely above average student even though I was far more capable. It never occurred to me that if I studied, my B average could be higher. My behavior was appropriate. I was quiet and reserved. The only thing I was reprimanded for was reading in class instead of completing an assignment. I doubt that any teacher would remember me. The only teacher conference my parents had was in the fourth grade. Their concern? I was not interested in anything except reading. The teacher’s answer? “She will be fine. Don’t worry.”
I have very few memories of school. Basically, school was uneventful for me. I moved from grade to grade almost in a fog. I remember being nervous to go to junior high school, but other than that my only significant memory was going to the library.
Junior high was as uneventful as elementary school until the ninth grade. The ninth grade math teacher, Mr. Mettetal, noticed me immediately. He liked me as a person and a student. That was the first time any teacher had noticed me. He greeted me when I walked in the room and took the time to talk to me when I completed my assignments. The tone of his voice was different when he spoke to me. I felt special for the first time. He recognized that I was not working to my potential and proceeded to encourage me to do better. Placing a test on my desk, he would say, “I expect a one hundred, Theresa.” At that point my mind would go completely blank, and I would forget everything he had taught. I wanted to please him and looked forward to going to his class. For the first time a teacher’s opinion of me was important. I excelled in his class, understanding all but one concept. When he taught negative numbers, I could not comprehend the concept. In my mind there was nothing below zero, so how could there be negative numbers? The other students could not understand why I didn’t get it. -I tell my students that it was before I opened a checking account. Now I understand it perfectly.- The following year I returned to the campus on Parent/Teacher night to visit him. He said, “Are you making straight A’s? You could, you know.” I thought, No, I didn’t know that. No one had ever told me that. No one had ever recognized that I had the potential to make more than average grades.
I proceeded through high school the same way I had gone through elementary and junior high school. I did excel in cosmetology my junior and senior year. I received my state cosmetology license the week before graduation. Graduation was on Friday night, and I went to work on Saturday morning, never intending to go to college. A few months after graduation, I enrolled in a private cosmetology school to obtain my teaching license. There I discovered how much I enjoyed teaching.