One day during Patricia Terry’s sixth grade class in Palmer ISD, she did something unusual. She stood by my desk and spoke only to me. Tall and lean, she always wore a classy blouse tucked into a long skirt and sprayed her hair into a neat coif.
“I think you can do more in this class,” she said. “I bet you would enjoy ‘Billy Budd’ by Herman Melville. How would you like to read the book and write an essay for me?”
I felt so special. It was the first time I considered that reading and writing might be an area of strength for me, and that I could stretch myself beyond the assignment in front of me. From that moment on, it was my thing. I got so into books I would stay up all night reading. I bought journals and filled them with my adolescent thoughts (I really hope those no longer exist.).
“My thing” led me to a career in journalism, which propelled me into communications and content development, and into the dream job I have now.
Educators like Mrs. Terry possess a superpower, one they can use for students every day. They spot strengths, set the bar a little higher and let students know they believe they can reach it.
In the video below, we asked members of our Holdsworth governing board, “Was there an educator who put you on the path to success?”
Our board members have all achieved great things and are respected leaders in their fields. But they weren’t born knowing who they would become. Educators stepped in to help shape the path.
For Shari Albright, it was John Moore, a college professor who “saw something in me that I didn’t even see in myself.”
For Elisa Villanueva Beard, it was Mike Trevino, a high school English teacher whose “incredibly high expectations led me to do work I never imagined I could do.”
For Dr. Nolan Perez, it was Donato Garcia, a chemistry teacher who pushed him to become a physician.
Taking the time to guide students is one of those “soft” measures of success that will never make it into state accountability results. Yet for educators, thank-you letters, phone calls and pictures from former students count for a lot more than test scores when it comes to their own personal measures of success.
Take a moment today to think about an educator who influenced your life. If you are an educator yourself, dig out some of those thank-you notes as a reminder that you are making a difference.
Many times, educators don’t know if they succeeded in planting a seed. I never told Mrs. Terry how much her small act meant to me, but perhaps this piece will come to her attention and I will get another chance.