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.”
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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.
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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!”
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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.