Anyone who has known me for a period of time is well aware of my thoughts on public education. I think it's an oxymoron and gives more credence to "experts" than "professionals." This is not to say that I haven't had teachers who weren't absolutely amazing. In fact, I'd go so far as to say I've had more than my fair share.
My elementry years until 4th grade are a pitiful blur of moving from one state to the next with very little time to get to know the teachers in-between. In 3rd grade alone, I moved three times. However, I truly wish I could remember the name of the first teacher I had that year because she was the first to encourage my writing talents.
It started simply enough, seperate stacks of cards, each pile denoting a different characterstic, animal, color or scenery. I was fascinated by these cards, entranced. It amazed me the different stories I could come up with by simply changing the color of a giraffe or by placing a dinosaur in a desert or in a suburban setting.
What made this teacher so amazing, is something I didn't recognize at the time, she created a set of these cards for me to take with me when I moved. It's a small gesture like that which can make all the difference in the world to a writer. While others who wish to write had to learn the 3x5 card technique, I was already using it instinctively.
The next teacher was Mr. Rhine in sixth grade, who, one day kept me after class and gave me a test which would be a considered nightmare for the average 12 year old but before he gave me that test he told me about a theory of his, and that was the reason I was doing so poorly in class and wasn't paying attention was because I was bored. When I found out it was a math test, I was stunned and just about had my first case of test jitters right then and there. Math was never what I'd call my "strong subject," still isn't but then he said something that calmed me, "You're not expected to pass this test. Just do the best you can."
Truthfully, I don't remember writing anything on that test except for my name. I don't even remember anything else from that day or the following until math time came again and Mr. Rhine told me that I was sitting in the wrong place and pointed to the area where the accelerated math students sat. If that wasn't enough to stun me, he then opened my math book to just about the middle, way past where the rest of the class was since it was the beginning of the year, and said, "You start here."
This wasn't the only thing Mr. Rhine did for me as far as his faith in me was concerned, but it is the most profound example of the simple faith that he showed in me throughout the year as well as the next two years since at my school, sixth grade was part of junior high (well, sort of, the sixth graders didn't change classes as often as the seventh and eighth graders, but we still did for the last two periods which were electives).
Junior high was the most highly condensed for amazing teachers, and I'll get to them in part two.