I’m fairly certain that anyone reading this blog, if prompted, would be able to identify a teacher who left a special imprint on their life. Whether it was in elementary, middle, high school, or college, we’ve all experienced that special connection that only a teacher and student can have. Perhaps it was their unbridled belief in your abilities, or maybe it was their unique teaching style that made otherwise boring subjects, exciting. Whatever it was, it was meaningful enough to place them at the top of your “favorite teacher” list.
I’d like you to consider the fact that the majority of what we remember about our favorite teacher(s) is not necessarily WHAT they taught us, but more importantly WHO they were. I want you to try something. Close your eyes and think about that special teacher you just identified. Imagine yourself back in that classroom. What are the memories that seem to surface? I would guess that it’s probably not an algebraic formula written on the board or a list of sentences, ready for you to diagram. In fact, you may not see anything. However, what you will feel speaks volumes. Why? Because this person more than likely influenced you on an emotional level as a result of the powerful energy they created in the classroom.
I actually had an opportunity to talk to my favorite teacher over the phone today. Her name is Candi Pitts and she was my second grade teacher at Liberty Elementary School in Albany, Oregon. Although it had been years since we last spoke, I could literally feel her radiant smile reaching through the phone. While I’m quite certain she did a wonderful job of teaching me the core content (i.e. reading, writing, and math), what I remember most is the beautiful energy that she brought to our classroom each day. A close second was her intense desire to unleash the innate creativity in each of her students. A fundamental component of what I teach today is the idea of a personal “ripple effect”, which measures the level of influence we have on others. I can honestly say that Mrs. Pitts’ ripple effect continues to resonate in my life. It’s important to note that this ripple has very little to do with WHAT she taught me and everything to do with WHO she was, and still is today.
Unfortunately, in the world of education, we are attempting to measure teachers with numbers. Specifically, the numbers their students produce on standardized tests. After all, numbers are much easier to measure. I tend to measure classrooms by the level of positive energy the teacher creates through his/her ripple. When students are influenced by this positivity, they are more likely to demonstrate skills such as creativity, innovation, and engagement. I would argue that the cultivation of these 21st Century skills is much more important than a letter grade or test score.
PAY IT FORWARD CHALLENGE:
The greatest part of my conversation with Mrs. Pitts today (it’s still hard for me to call her Candi) was the opportunity I had to express my tremendous gratitude for WHO she is and the difference she continues to make for me. I challenge each of you to reach out to that special teacher in your life and share your appreciation for WHO they are. Even if you’ve done this before, I encourage you to do it again. Thankfully, there is no limit when it comes to gratitude.
What a most special gift I received from Mike Sissel, but it was not just from our most recent conversation, but the lifetime of experiences I was privileged to be given by his entire family. I taught all the Sissel children; Mark, Mike, Tim and Melissa and it was the unwavering support of their amazing parents, Bill and Sue, that fueled their individual curiosities and talents AND love for learning. Mike talks about the “ripple effect” and I am a firm believer in this metaphor as I have felt the continuous impact of this throughout my life and career in education. I am so very honored to know all the Sissels and Mike is doing such an important role in reaching out and sharing his vision for a better world. Keep up your visionary work, Mike–I believe in YOU!
With much affection,
Candi Hironaka Pitts aka Mrs. Pitts