Under the Influence
By Peter L DeHaan
my daughter majored in English and minored in Math; her focus – and
passion, however – was elementary education.
Although reports abound of a teacher shortage, that is not the
case in our area. With
above average compensation and several respected local schools
churning out qualified educators, there is a glut of teachers seeking
employment. The all too
typical result is that aspiring teachers are relegated to substitute
teaching for a time before landing that coveted full-time position.
Their other option is to move out of state.
endeavored to brace my daughter for the likelihood of subbing for a
year or two, thereby gaining experience, acquiring confidence, and
building a reputation. Indeed,
that did seem to be her path. With
scores of applications submitted, backed by a strong resume, an
impressive portfolio, and a voluminous website to match, nary an
interview had been granted.
months of waiting, her first interview finally occurred.
Then there was a second interview, which was followed by an
offer of employment. That
fall, she began teaching first grade and influencing the next generation.
recall too much about my own first grade teacher.
I do know that I really liked her and heard my parents say, on
numerous occasions, that Mrs. Frank had given me a great start in
school, a strong foundation on which future teachers could effectively
stellar educator who was highly influential was Miss Robinson, my
fourth grade teacher. Our
class was a challenge to her – a good challenge.
Many of us had been in a “split” room the year before, half
third grade and half fourth grade.
Once our third grade assignments were complete, we were allowed
to do fourth grade work. The
result was the Miss Robinson inherited a batch of students who had
already mastered much of the fourth grade curriculum.
She worked hard to provide us with additional lessons and
opportunities that would keep us motivated and challenged, without
similarly handicapping our fifth grade teacher.
One such instance was a science module on electricity.
I was mesmerized. Little
did I know that this would serve as the impetus for continuing
interest and a subsequent vocation, leading me down a varied and
unpredictable, but most fulfilling career path.
that summer and I started at a new school.
I quickly realized three things. I was way ahead in math,
hopelessly behind in grammar, and had been placed in the wrong class
by the school secretary. It
is said that teachers often give more attention to students on the
edges, both those with great promise, as well as those who struggle.
My knowledge and understanding of things unfamiliar to my
peers, catapulted me to a position of prominence.
The result was that my teacher gave me special attention and
esteem, while my classmates viewed me with academic awe and respect.
Although I didn’t learn much academically that year, I did
undergo a metamorphous of self-perception.
Put succinctly, I began fifth grade as an above average student
who felt average and ended the year as an above average student who
was convinced he was exceptional.
That single attitudinal change altered the trajectory of my
educational path – and ultimately my life.
Yes, Mrs. Wedel influenced me immensely.
grade, I had Mr. Snow for English.
It was clear that he loved to teach and equally apparent that
he loved seventh graders. He
invested extra time and effort in me during lunch and after school,
getting me caught up on my grammar and punctuation.
Our class read and studied, Dickens’ classic story, A
Christmas Carol. Mr.
Snow helped us dig into this timeless tale and mine its many truths.
The conclusion was inescapable for me and equally profound.
Like Dickens’ Scrooge, we have a choice on how we live our
life; it can be for selfish purposes or it can be for the joy of
living and the benefit of others.
I chose the later.
I also had Mr. Binder for science.
He was a strict and demanding instructor with high expectations
– and I feared him – at least in the classroom.
However, he also faithfully served as my track coach for five
years, where he functioned in a much different role and with
significant influence on me. It
was on the track where I learned many of life’s important issues and
where I experienced my happiest moments as a teen.
Although I was not an athlete, athletic opportunities – via a
highly effective teacher/coach – helped to shape me more than
anything learned in the classroom.
school it was Mr. Grosser who affected me greatly.
With a passion for molding young minds, he was part educator
and part entertainer. There
was never a dull moment in his classroom, where the unexpected became
routine. Sometimes he
addressed the course material; at other times he digressed.
Regardless, throughout it all, he wanted us to think,
profoundly and deeply. His
influence was significant and helped me mature as an individual and
prepare for adulthood.
standout mentor of my college years was professor Britten.
Intellectual and insightful, he quietly communicated profundity
with ease, effectiveness, and aplomb.
I found myself hanging on every word.
Nothing he said was wasted and everything had significance.
He was the teacher whose class one took, not because of the
subject material, but because of the instructor.
but some of the teachers who highly influenced me, they are the best
of the best. Aside from
academia, I have had many notable “teachers” in the business world
as well – some may even be reading this article.
Although not teachers, per se, they are nonetheless educators
and have played a role in guiding me to become the person that I am
If you are
a teacher, be encouraged that you are influencing others – even if
you don’t know it. You
may never be affirmed by those you teach, but you are making a
difference, to every student, every year.
If you are
not a teacher, know that you, too, influence others.
Whether a business owner, a manager, a supervisor, or a
front-line employee, you influence those around you by what you do,
the things you say, and how you treat others.
Scrooge, you can either influence negatively by pursuing a life of
selfish inward concern or influence positively by choosing to make a
difference in others by sharing, giving, and influencing them in an
encouraging and profound manner. Although
they may seldom thank you for the role you play in their lives, know
that you are making a significantly lasting and notable impact as you
pursue the path of positive influence.
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