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January 26, 2021

February wraps up with lots of love for public school teachers in eight states

Love heartFebruary was “Show Some Love for our Teachers” month at Roadkill Goldfish. Readers were encouraged to reach out to public school teachers who made a difference in their life or in the life of their child.

Many readers did just that and showed love via meetings, phone calls, social media and posthumous notes. A few shared their stories with all of us.

Teachers and readers, thank you for making  a difference in so many lives.

Angela Hewlett – William Howard Taft High School (Woodland Hills)
Appreciated by Sean P. Gray

I wish I could put my finger on it, but Ms. Hewlett made learning fun.  Maybe it was her engaging personality?  Maybe it was the way she was able to get everyone in class to participate?  Whatever it was, I found myself enjoying class and enjoying learning, and wanting to learn more.  When I think about my never-ending hunger to read or expand my knowledge . . . whether it be by surfing the web, visiting a museum, or traveling someplace new . . . I feel as if she had a significant part in helping me become a more well-rounded individual.

Dennis Emmons –North Muskegon Public School (Muskegon)
Appreciated by Rob Das

Mr. Dennis Emmons was my band director from 1974 (5th grade band) till I graduated from North Muskegon public school 1982. It is a tiny school system so one director did it all. During those years I spent more time with him than my own father. The most important thing I learned from him was character. I frequently witnessed him pass along praise to the band members whenever he got a compliment. When things went wrong he would immediately accept responsibility. He was a great encourager and always fair when corrective feedback was needed. After not seeing him for nearly 20 years, he and his wife were first in line at my dad’s funeral. He was always a class act.

Ruth Cook – Farmington High School (Farmington)
Appreciated by Kim Helminski Keller

She was our queen, and she ruled Farmington High School with her elegant silver crown and chalk scepter. Ruth Cook was demanding yet encouraging, strict yet compassionate, and no-nonsense yet playful. As her students, we feared and loved her with all our hearts.

During the 1980s, Farmington, Minn. was considered a small town. Dining out was limited to a small family-owned pizza parlor and a Dairy Queen. Kids hung out at the roller skating rink, hockey arena, the town park or any of the countless farms and fields that surrounded our community. Roughly 500 of us attended the town’s only high school, and it was there that we received our queen’s blessings.

Mrs. Cook, the school’s main English teacher, taught generations of Farmington students. She knew all of us by name, but most importantly, she knew our souls and could easily identify when something was wrong, even when we tried to hide it. She was a strict disciplinarian and accepted no excuses. She’d call you out with “get on the stick” if she felt you weren’t working hard enough. She lovingly and firmly confronted students who had done drugs. She was not a fan of over-the-top public displays of affection (PDA), and we often heard her confront teen lovers with, “No PDA in the halls! For crying out loud, respect yourself!”

No one dared defy her. Her retirement in 1986 left a huge void at FHS, and many of us believe the school took a rowdier turn because she was no longer there to keep everyone in line.

I had the opportunity to speak with Mrs. Cook yesterday. It’s been almost three decades, but her voice still had the same energy and passion I remembered. She and I talked about today’s educational system, and we both lamented the death of cursive handwriting, sentence diagramming, spelling and verb tenses. With happy tears in my eyes, I said, “Mrs. Cook, I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate all you did for me back then. You gave me such a strong background, and I love you.” Her heartfelt laughter came over the line as she thanked me, but she confessed she always thought she was our least favorite teacher. I had to tell her she was wrong, and many of my classmates have since taken to Facebook to talk about what a difference she made in their lives.

Her teaching, as well as the discipline and encouragement she gave us, made us better people.

Ms. Lindroth – Cambridge Elementary School (Cambridge)

Appreciated by Lisa Heinzerling Barnhart

She loved her first graders and we knew we had the best teacher in the world. I remember her big smile and laugh. I always strived for her daily awards including the “cool walker award”. She was kind and generous with praise.

Jim Veum – Farmington Elementary School (Farmington)
Appreciated by Mark Shirley

I was at my youngest boy’s hockey game. On the opposing team I see the name “Veum” on the back of a jersey. It happened to be the last name of my favorite teacher from fourth grade. I used to stop by his classroom every few years until he retired and then lost track of him. As I’m walking the concourse, I see a familiar face…it’s him, Mr. Veum. As I approach him, he recognizes me and calls me by the nickname he gave me back then. We sat and chatted for the game and caught up on things. I was able to take advantage of the opportunity to tell him the impact he had on me as a teacher. It was great to be able to tell him that, and I know he appreciated it.

Follow-up: Mark called Mr. Veum after he sent this to me. They chatted on the phone for 45 minutes.


Brittany Clark – Northwest Elementary School (Pikeville)
Appreciated by Harold Keller

I can never thank Brittany Clark enough for how she encouraged my daughter. It was the fall of 2006 when Mrs. Clark came to NES after her husband transferred to a nearby Air Force base. She was young, energetic and kind – just what my shy and insecure second-grade little girl needed. Mrs. Clark soon noticed my daughter had a talent for writing short stories and excitedly gushed to me, “I’ve never seen anything like this! She’s only 8-years-old, but she’s developing characters, using dialogue and even throwing in plot twists.” My daughter overheard and beamed. She began writing more stories and created plays for her classmates to perform in class. Mrs. Clark had a baby girl toward the end of the school year and didn’t return in the fall. Her husband eventually transferred to another base, and we lost contact. However, I wanted both her and the world to know how her efforts brought a little girl out of her shell to become a bold and articulate young woman as well as an amazing young author.


Ronda Lawson – Fairfield North Elementary (Fairfield Township)
Appreciated by Deborah Hester

My son has ADHD.  During Kindergarten a week would not go by without notes on his behavior chart.  I received emails, was pulled into behavior meetings, and felt a Mother’s guilt.

 We moved to Ohio at the beginning of first grade. Within two weeks I received the note requesting a conference.  Mrs. Rhonda Lawson asked questions no one else had.  “What motivates him? What does he like to do more than anything?” In that instant we were both on the same side…a team.  The rest of the meeting was spent brainstorming on how to reward him for good behavior rather than punishments for bad behavior.  When I asked how she was going to explain the rewards to the rest of the class, she said, “Well, it is what he needs right now.” That one sentence made the guilt disappear and I will be forever grateful.

Multiple – Craigmont High School (Memphis)
Appreciated by Darin Hollingsworth

I am so truly grateful for my public education at Craigmont High School in Memphis, TN. Under the leadership of Dr. Jane Walters, principal, these wonderful educators gave me knowledge and affirmation and enthusiastic support. Shirley Stone, Sandra Hodge, John Hester, Judy Nichols, Sharon Hutchinson, Mildred Galloway, Shirley Lile, Susan Whitehorn, Mary Jane Workman, Dorothy Cascia, Carole Short and Mary Beth Yates. Dr. Walters and these teachers gave me and my schoolmates leadership and LOVE – love of learning and achievement and love when failure and challenges presented themselves as well. On a very personal level, it was years before I knew exactly how much my teachers all supported me through my father’s long-term illness. They truly had my back even when I didn’t know how much I needed them.

Angela Thomas – Fisher Elementary School (Frisco)
Appreciated by Anonymous

For the first time in his school life, my son has found a teacher that he genuinely likes. When he heard about the “Show Some Love” campaign, he demanded Angela Thomas be recognized. I agree with him. Mrs. Thomas makes learning fun, which is something he’s never said about another teacher. She’s also been his greatest advocate and genuinely cares about our entire family. My son has had some school challenges, and it is very easy for him to become very discouraged, but Mrs. Thomas keeps him focused on the positives. That’s what an excellent public school teacher does.

Erma June Vinson – Hickory High School (Chesapeake)
Appreciated by Craig Spence

Mrs. Vinson, my sophomore English teacher, reinforced my love of reading, writing, and keeping a childlike sense of wonder for all things possible. What stands out the most about this lovely woman: I found out my family was to move over the summer of 1997. I was crushed! Mrs. Vinson saw me roaming the halls at lunch time, noticed I was upset and just gave me the sweetest hug. She let me in the classroom and let me have a good cry. We kept in touch though my first years of college. She retired in 2000, which I consider a loss for the school district! I just happened across an article in the Virginian Pilot that tells me she still finds ways to impact people, even though outside the classroom.

I love you, Mrs. Vinson. Thanks for everything!


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