Educating Hearts and Minds – Giving Thanks for Both


While our thoughts are on thankfulness, we celebrate and appreciate our ability to learn, and those who teach us. As we grow, we discover that teachers, lessons, and skills to be developed and occasions in which to apply them, present themselves in countless ways. We may learn from ourselves, parents, family members, friends, credentialed educators, complete strangers, acquaintances, pets, nature…just about anyone or anything that is alive! Yet, with all the teachers we have in our lives, we hold our school teachers in a special place, individually and collectively. Our therapists/staff were asked to identify one educator for whom they each are especially thankful.

Caring and creativity count!
With twelve of us at Pediatric Therapeutics as a small sample, more of us are especially thankful for an elementary school teacher, than for educators of any other grades, kindergarten through grad school! Karen Betheil brings up, “…elementary school teachers are truly some special people. The amount of work they do, the patience they have and the complexity of their job, make them very special indeed. I am thankful for all these teachers for what they do, day in and day out.”  Regardless of grade, our Pediatric Therapeutics’ responses included common themes of teacher’s support (with life lessons as well as scholastic ones), meaningful stimulation, and belief in them and their abilities.

What happens in elementary school may extend well beyond
Seven of the twelve of us responded with a specific teacher they had in primary school. Anne Toolajian is thankful for Miss Helper (truly this teacher’s name!!!), her bubbly, warm and nurturing first grade teacher who ultimately shaped her fear and trepidation as a student in a new school into confidence. Anne recalls her comfort when Miss Helper paired her students up with buddies on day 1 and her love of her first grade year and the teacher that made her feel a special way. Carrie Beiter also gives thanks for her first grade teacher, Mrs. Lyons, who was instrumental in helping her learn how to read.

As Maureen Harper tells it, she is most thankful for her second grade teacher Mrs. Blanc, who “changed the landscape of her life”. She shares this story.

I showed up in Mrs. Blanc’s class as a student who had repeated first grade because the first time through I had missed more than 2/3 of the school year due to a very serious illness.  As second grade unfolded she would quietly come to my desk and give me different work to do than the other kids in the class.  I had a terrible fear of not doing well enough after being held back in first grade. Next she started sending me to Ms. Robert’s third grade class for certain subjects.  Mid January she told me she knew I could do third grade.  I was immediately relieved but then totally surprised when she followed with ‘right now.’  Together we packed up my desk and walked over to Ms. Robert’s classroom. It was hard work skipping a grade midyear. I have never forgotten her confidence in my abilities and potential.  She believed I could do things I never allowed myself to consider.  She taught me to see vistas beyond my immediate grasp and work hard to get them.

 Anne Bentley Fell pays special tribute to Mr. Green, her third grade teacher, who, with his out-of-the box teaching style, always made learning fun. Terri Jones is also thankful for her third grade teacher, Mrs Speers – her favorite teacher of all time! Terri mentions that Mrs. Speers was very supportive at a difficult time when her mother was frequently in the hospital. She made Terri feel like a “big helper” by having her help out after school rather than going home to an empty house. Mrs. Roberts was Scott Bagish’s first and fourth grade teacher, and a teacher for whom he continues to be especially thankful. She always encouraged creative expression in her classrooms and allowed him to play guitar while she and the class sung the Beatles ‘Yesterday’ in her fourth grade class!

Miriam Cohen thinks of her fifth grade teacher Mrs. Hunt a lot, and is most grateful for her. Miriam shares that Mrs Hunt was her “rock”, helping her to stay strong when, at 10 years old, Miriam experienced her father being left paralyzed due to a horrible car accident. Mrs. Hunt is also credited for “forcing” left-handed Miriam to write with her hand positioned below what she was writing rather than hooking from above.

Doing what it takes to engage a group of middle schoolers is long remembered
Julie Hersch’s thanks are given to her innovative 7th grade history teacher, Mr. Young, who had a flair for bringing history to life. She gives an example of him introducing her class to the Viking era by jumping up onto his desk, disrobing to red long johns, dashing to the classroom closet, and emerging full dressed as a Viking to teach the class in character.

High school teachers are given thanks for their roles in the evolution of specific capabilities
With the holidays here, Liz Duffy is thankful for Mr. Murray, her high school music teacher. Thanks to him and her participation in a traveling choir group, she knows all the lyrics to almost every holiday song! I, Sheila Allen, am most thankful for the English teacher I had as a Junior in high school, Mrs. Turner, for the influence she has had on my writing nearly every single day since I first took my seat in her class. She strongly believed in the power of the written word. Her passionate insistence upon the importance of being able to express and represent yourself clearly in a way that will also be appreciated by your reader is always with me, regardless of what I am writing.

Yes, a British accent can help with college math!
Laurie Klauber, who gives thanks to her Finite Mathematics assistant instructor, is the only one to mention a teacher in college or grad school. As a college Sophomore with a history of insecurity with math, she credits her final B+ grade to him; while she cannot remember his name, she vividly recalls his calming British accent!

To quote Aristotle, “educating the mind without educating the heart is not education at all.” Thank you to those who’ve taught us in years gone by and those who do so now!

–Assembled and edited by Sheila Allen, MA, OT

3 Responses to “Educating Hearts and Minds – Giving Thanks for Both”

  1. Sarah Fliegel

    Thanks for the nice piece on teachers we are thankful for. It helped me reflect on my own as well as Bob’s, Len’s Efram’s & Hardy’s and even some the Les has talked about in his life! Shelia, it is apparent in your great writing style that your English teacher was special, I had a similar experience with mine in 7th grade. Anne, I will never forget Len’s first grade teacher who let everybody’s “shy” out of an open window. That certainly helped Len read aloud comfortably.

  2. Sarah Fliegel

    Wishing you both,the others at Pediatric Therapeutics a very happy & healthy holiday season & coming year.

  3. Pediatric Therapeutics

    What a wonderful sentiment and story! Thank you, Sarah!

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