BY LILY KONGSLIEN
Special to the Star Journal
“Teachers.” What does that word conjure in your mind? If you are, or have been a teacher at some period in your life, you will immediately think of that time and your experiences as you led and instructed young minds in their preparation for meeting life’s challenges. If you have never been in the teaching field, you certainly were influenced by many in your lifetime.
I would like to share some of my memories and thoughts about teachers that helped shape my early life. A teacher is really a “substitute mother” in our early years. During the school months, more hours are spent with the teacher than with the child’s mother – at least in most instances.
I wanted to go to school when I was about four, as I watched my brother prepare for each day – a good breakfast, dressing in “school clothes,” and then the several-mile walk to the little rural school on the corner. When he said goodbye and I was left by myself until 4 p.m., I constantly wished I could go to school, too. I could hardly wait until he came home to ask him to teach me what he had learned. Of course, he wasn’t one bit interested in going over his day’s activities, and wanted to do his chores and get outside to play.
Each day this went on until I was old enough for school.
How excited I was, and the school seemed so large. And the kids were so rough and paid no attention to me, a shy little first grader. Little did I know that all things about school were not necessarily FUN, as I found out shortly.
I had a serious problem with English, and my teacher seemed to have no patience or time for me. Since we were raised in a home where Danish was spoken, the correct pronunciation of words such as the, that, there, those, was strange to me, as at home, the “th” was pronounced as “d”.
My teacher made me sit in a corner facing the wall each day during reading class. I cried until I hyperventilated – then cried some more. But I did conquer my language problems, and then loved school.
Most of my teachers in the one-room school were excellent, with the exception of my first grade teacher. I did later think well of her, as I realized she did not know how to really help me. She went on a leave of absence later in the year, and I then had a male teacher for part of first grade. I think back now and hope I didn’t add to her problems.
Most of the teachers were very good, and we learned a lot and liked school.
My very favorite teacher was the one I had in sixth and seventh grades. She not only taught us from books, she also taught us about life in general. She took us girls under her wing and taught us those important “facts of life.”
All-in-all, my grade school days were happy, as I had good friends and good teachers, who were also good friends. Many times they worked with sub-standard materials and bought supplies out of their own meager pay. The teacher I had in eighth grade was excellent in covering material we had to learn to pass state exams. She put in lots of extra long hours day after day. And we all graduated from eighth grade, which was an accomplishment in those days.
Then came high school, and I had to make many adjustments, since I came from a rural school into large high school classes. I had many good teachers and did my best. I was working for my room and board, as many of us country girls did. When our days at school were over and the work expected of us at our “city” home finished, we did not have time to study. But somehow we got good grades and graduated, thanks to the patience and care from many teachers.
Then I had two years of college before me, the requirement to be a rural school teacher in those days. It was then that I fully realized the effort and patience a teacher had to give to students. I really loved every day of learning to be a teacher, and I finally learned how to study. The teachers at the Teachers College were encouraging and also critical, as they critiqued our practice teaching. The suggestions they gave us were helpful as we approached the time we would be on our own, in our own school, motivating and teaching youthful minds, so they too would be ready to go out into the world with the education to succeed.
I salute all former teachers and all present teachers as they help to mold young minds and encourage learning in all phases of life. And as mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers, we are never finished teaching, and our families benefit from our past experiences. Hats off to all teachers!