Thank you to the readers who are already showing some love for public school teachers. As mentioned last week, Roadkill Goldfish is encouraging everyone to reach out to a teacher who has made an impact in their life or the lives of their children. I promised to highlight some of the love on this site.
Here are a few public school teachers who are worthy of gratitude:
Ruth Cook – Farmington High School (Farmington, MN)
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.
Jim Veum – Farmington Elementary School (Farmington, MN)
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, NC)
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.
Angela Thomas – Fisher Elementary School (Frisco, Texas)
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.