Thank you, Mr. B!

by thanker212, via flickr.com/creativecommons

This morning on NPR, there was a show (I tuned in late, but I think it was this segment on “Talk of the Nation”) dedicated to thanking a teacher who had made a difference in your life.

I thought of my sixth-grade English teacher, Mr. Belloumini, a quirky man who rarely stayed on topic and loved to tell long, circuitous stories. But Mr. B was the one who made me see writing as something other than a formula or a set of rules, who guided me through my first real short story and my first poem. I might have pursued another (more sensible!) career, had I not fallen for writing in his class 20 years ago. And yet, I’ve never told him that.

On this Thanksgiving weekend, what teacher would you like to thank? Tell us about them. And teachers: How often do your students or families express gratitude for your work, and how do they do it? What does it mean to you when they do?

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • ImaTeacher

    I heard the NPR show, also. It was interesting that all the teachers who called in were retired. As someone who has been teaching in Oakland for 21+ years; I can say that I frequently run into students, now grown, at least once or twice per week, and usually they will say that they enjoyed my class or I was their favorite teacher. Since this is the age of social networking, I have several former students who are Facebook friends. Probably the most interesting “thank you” (of sorts) was one day, several years ago, when I was in my car, waiting for the light to turn green, when a young man in the next car began frantically waving at me. I rolled down the window, and the student said, “Hey, Ms. —-, do you remember me? Brandon—? From Claremont Middle School, 3rd period English?” I didn’t remember him, but said I did (because what are you going to say to someone who was 12 when they were in your class and now is 25), and just before the light changed, he said, “You gave me my first A! Now I’m in law school!” Great to hear, in this age of teacher bashing.

  • Katy Murphy

    What a cool story. If only the light couldn’t have been a little longer!

  • Makeitgoaway

    Not too many great teachers (Montera and Skyline) until I got to Cal and had Sandy Muir for political science who brought in David Hilliard of the Black Panthers to harangue our class, exposing me to alternative ways of looking at the world. Interestingly enough, Muir was a Republican who worked for George Bush.

    Like Imateacher, I have been stopped by many students who have appreciated my classes. Perhaps it is because I try to be the teacher I never had and remember how boring school was.

  • Debora

    I would love to thank Diane Feinstein who taught sixth grade at Larkey Elementary School. She taught me to identify and love European art, to see the music and untangle the mystery of mathematics, helped me develop a love of science and taught me how to put my thoughts, feelings, wants and needs into coherent paragraphs and beautiful poems.

    She also recognized that an 11 year-old raising three siblings was difficult enough so she taught me to navigate the school system so I could advocate for myself and my siblings.

    I think of and mentally thank Ms. Feinstein at least once per month. You couldn’t have wished for or wanted a better teacher.

  • Mary H.

    I was fortunate to have many great teachers in elementary through high school. But I think the teacher who had the greatest effect on me was Jack Page, journalist and teacher at Merritt College. Not only was he a great instructor, but he had more confidence in me than I had in myself (a struggling single parent) at the time. He offered me the position of editor for the school newspaper during my second semester (which I humbly refused), and encouraged me to pursue a teaching credential (which I successfully did) rather than settle for my goal of being a teacher’s aide. (I’d discovered that, although I loved to write, I did not care that much for reporting. But I always loved working with children.) Although he passed away several years ago, I’ve always remembered his encouragement and I
    appreciate having this opportunity, Katy, to thank him publicly.

  • Marcia

    I thank Miss Woodward, my high school English teacher in both my junior and senior years. She was extremely demanding, to the extent that several of us went to the principal to complain about the workload. To his credit, he backed her up. She made us think as no other teachers did. I have no doubt that she taught me to write, a skill that’s been the basis of my work life for decades. I’d long wished that I could thank her.

    Looking back now I marvel at the huge impact she had on my friends and me (we were pretty much the intellectual nerd crowd) when she was just 23 and 24 years old. Our junior year was her first year of teaching, and yet she immediately had us in the palm of her hand.

    The first high school reunion any of us attended was our 40th, and we were unanimous that she was by far our most memorable teacher. In fact, we made a pilgrimage to the campus, located her classroom, and took a group photo outside her door.

    A couple of years later I happened to run into someone who had later taught at the high school when she was still there and who had her address. Simultaneously thrilled to have the opportunity finally to express my gratitude and yet extremely intimidated, I fussed over my letter for weeks before I finally mailed it off. Along with it I included a copy of the photo of members of her first class, taken outside her classroom at our 40th reunion. She did send a gracious reply, which I scanned and e-mailed to my high school cohort.

    A final note: for many years a clone of Miss Woodward taught at Skyline, in the person of Maura Casey (she retired in 1997). My son had the good fortune to have her for English all 3 years he was there (this was before Skyline added 9th grade); my daughter, unfortunately, had Ms. Casey for only one year before she retired. When I saw how the class was organized, the caliber of work assigned, how she engaged students’ minds, the standards she set, I was thrilled–and immediately reminded of Miss Woodward. The two of them must have been about the same age and have received their teaching credentials around the same time, in the early 60s. High school English teachers molded in that era, at least these two, were truly special.

    I’m pleased to thank Miss Woodward here, but I’m even more pleased that my 62-year-old self was able to communicate to her my gratitude for what she did for my 17-year-old self.

  • Michael L. Moore, Sr.

    I would like to thank Mrs. Nakaua, my English Teacher at McChesney (now Brewer) Jr. High 1969, Jack Van Zandt, my Student Activities Director at Oakland High 1975, and LeeNell Jennings, High School Associate Supt. 1997, my Mentor and leader in character, truthfulness, and promoting excellence in education.

    Michael L. Moore, Sr.
    Commissioner – Oakland Section
    California Interscholastic Federation (CIF)
    Oakland Athletic League (OAL)

  • Christopher Scheer

    I would like to thank Ms. Thomasina Wilson, who taught history for many years at Berkeley High. She is one of only a handful of teachers at BHS I even remember having positive feelings for, and the only one who I really felt inspired by, in terms of content. She had a great sense of humor and joy d’vivre, and was a big proponent of class discussions which involved everybody.

    Sadly, she passed away this past year, and health problems had pushed her out of the classroom years ago. It is scary that several of my favorite teachers died fairly young from diseases that are often stress-related.

    Also, shout outs to Ms. Dawley, Ms. Delp and Mr. Haas, three amazing elementary school teachers who were great teachers and terrific role models. I was never one for hero worship, but I came pretty damn close with all three.

    And Ms. Thalheimer (sp?), a middle school English teacher holding down a space for creativity in a really dismal school. She really struggled with me around writer’s block, and made me feel like I could accomplish great things, even though I didn’t always come through for her.