Columns

A love letter to teachers

We’ve all struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’ve had to learn new ways to work while constantly adapting to ever-changing pandemic restrictions. But it often seems like educators bear the brunt of community ire, as they try to safely navigate the return of students to in-person school.

Perhaps that’s why the response to my recent column recalling an SFCC instructor who influenced my decision to pursue writing struck a chord. I wrote of my hopes that our son, Sam, now teaching English 101 at Eastern Washington University, might also be an encouraging influence on his students, and I asked readers to share memories of an educator who impacted them.

Here are some of the responses I received.

When Cheri Moore attended Northwest Christian College (now Bushnell University) in Eugene in 1979, she was married, pregnant and a full-time student.

She loved her 7 a.m. New Testament Exegesis class until morning sickness hit.

“After missing several classes in a row, I went to see the professor during his office hours and explained the situation,” Cheri wrote. “He told me to do the best I could and to find someone to get class notes and assignments from when I missed a class. The next time I missed a class the prof popped into the cafeteria during lunch, dropped his class notes, including the assignment for the next class, on the table in front of me, then leaned over and whispered in a stage whisper ‘Don’t tell Dr. Root, I hear he’s a stickler about note sharing.’ Every class I missed from then on found Dr, Root handing me his notes at lunchtime.”

• • •

Bill Reuter’s most influential educator was his fifth-grade teacher at Finch Elementary in Spokane during the 1949-1950 school year.

“She was hard on me, expecting better from me the entire year, no excuses accepted,” he recalled. “I still remember once being in tears after a very trying lesson. My report card grades were lower than in previous years, but I kept trying. I later realized how a teacher can set you on a career path to something that can be rewarding. After graduating from North Central High, I attended Eastern Washington College of Education and followed in her footsteps. I was then employed by Spokane schools as a teacher and principal for 33 years.”

His teacher? Emma Reuter, who also happened to be his mother.

• • •

Michael Groves recently visited the Seattle area to see his former Shorecrest High School history teacher, Bruce MacDougall, now 88. Groves graduated in 1976 but stayed in touch with his teacher. MacDougall’s love of travel rubbed off on his student in a big way.

“From 1980 through 2005, I was fortunate to make around three dozen trips abroad, strictly as a tourist,” wrote Groves.

He visited six of seven continents during that time with Antarctica being the only holdout.

“Because of his (MacDougall’s) influence on me, I’ve had a chance to go into Red China on that opening journey in 1980,” he wrote.

Other trips included: Christmas Eve and morning in Bethlehem’s Manger Square; his 30th birthday at the Taj Mahal; his 40th at the Vatican in Rome; riding a camel in the Gobi Desert on his 45th; and witnessing a new century unfold in Australia on New Year’s Eve 1999.

“I don’t think that any teacher, anywhere, had as much influence on a single student like he did in my case, both in my personal life, and my time away from my job in traveling the globe,” Groves said. “Thank you, teach!”

• • •

Judy Felgenhauer gave a special shoutout to her Susanville, California, fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Marguerite Crane.

“She gave me my first ‘C’ ever – in handwriting,” Felgenhauer recalled. “But she encouraged me to practice and provided much support. She also helped cement my love of reading. Each day she read to us from a children’s classic.”

They stayed in touch over the years and when she graduated from medical school, Mrs. Crane sent her former student a pair of earrings that Felgenhauer still treasures.

Felgenhauer is the pediatric divisional lead physician at Providence Medical Group and is medical director of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital.

“Whenever someone tells me I can’t possibly be a doctor because they can read my handwriting, I credit Mrs. Crane,” she said.

So here’s to you, teachers, school board members, professors and support staff.

We see you. And most of us are profoundly thankful you keep showing up for our kids.

Columns

Some like it hot… especially me

They say you don’t appreciate what you have until you no longer have it.

Take electricity for example. In August we lost power for several hours. It didn’t take long for my family to deeply appreciate the magic that happens when you flip a switch and the lights come on.

Apparently, the Universe deemed we needed another lesson in gratitude.

Ten years ago, my husband and his father replaced our aging water heater with a fancy tankless model. Like all Hval projects it was fraught with unforeseen complications. Namely, they couldn’t get the water shut off. But also like all Hval projects, it was worth the wait.

At the time, we had six people living at home, including four active boys. Showering had turned into a competitive sport. No one wanted to be the last one to shower because that’s when the hot water usually ran out. And God help the Mom who threw a load of laundry in while boys were bathing.

After our new tankless system was installed, Derek ran his hand over the compact, gleaming wall-mounted beauty.

“We’ll never run out of hot water, again!” he said.

For a long time, he was right. But a few years ago, the heater began making some ominous noises. We ignored them.

This summer the rattle turned to a roar that echoed all the way outdoors to the Great Gazebo where I sunned myself.

And then the dripping started.

Last month, Derek and I came home after an evening out, and Zach said, “Did you know water is coming out of the hot water heater?”

We did not know this.

After assessing the situation, Derek put a bucket under it.

Within days the trickle became a small but steady stream and the bucket had to be emptied with increasing frequency. We took to turning the water heater off at night.

“I think it’s the heat exchanger,” said Derek.

Then he did something unheard of in the Hval household: He called for professional help.

A plumber visited and confirmed Derek’s suspicion, and recommended replacing the entire unit. The estimated cost was the equivalent of sending one of us to Hawaii while the other stayed home and ate macaroni and cheese for a week.

“I’ll just replace the heat exchanger and I’ll do it myself,” Derek announced.

He watched a YouTube video about the process and ordered the part online.

“It’ll be here in less than a week,” he said.

Of course, that was the day the water heater quit all together.

Theoretically, one can live without hot water. You can wash your hands and your clothes in cold and our dishwasher has its own heating coils. What you cannot do is shower in cold water. At least I can’t.

The four of us scrambled to find bathing options while we waited for the part to arrive. We have a gym membership, so Derek and Sam took hot showers there. I could have done that, too, but I like more privacy when I get ready for my day. Thankfully, I housesit for snowbirds during the fall and winter, and hot showers and my office away from home were just a short drive away.

Which left poor Zachary (who’d let his gym membership lapse) to learn the military discipline of taking an icy shower.

“The key is to keep your feet out of the way of the water,” he informed us.

A chilly week passed before the part arrived. It had some complicated wiring, but Derek easily figured it out and hooked it up in record time.

He switched it on and waited. No rattle. No roar. And unfortunately no hot water.

“I think the dripping water fried the fan,” he said. “I’ll order a new one. It’ll be here in a couple days.”

We are a stoic lot, but the news was hard to take. Our combined groans sounded almost as loud as the defunct water heater used to.

On the appointed day, the fan arrived while we were all at work. Derek hurried home to install it. The rest of us watched our phones, anxiously awaiting word.

Within minutes a text arrived. “We have HOT WATER!”

Such beautiful words!

Zachary got the first shower. He’d earned it.

As for me, when it was my turn to luxuriate under the warm water’s soothing spray, I counted my blessings. Loudly. Just in case the Universe thinks I need any more reminders.

War Bonds

The Power of Gratitude

I read a quote from Yoko Ono this morning that’s lingering in my mind. Speaking about her life with John Lennon, she said, “We just accepted what was there for us and lived in grace and appreciation.”

Appreciation. Thankfulness. Gratitude. Powerful words that have the ability to transform our lives.

My story A Wedding and Funeral has been included in the recently released book, Chicken Soup the Soul: The Power of Gratitude.

The story chronicles a memorable day in which my husband and I attended the funeral of a young man who overdosed on his depression medication; and a wedding for longtime single friend who finally said yes to love.

Most days aren’t filled with such epic events, but every day offers us a chance to breathe in grace and breath out appreciation.

Gratitude. It’s powerful.

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