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A Salute To Educators
by Maricia Mlynek

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As the first day of school approaches, teachers have been back to work for several weeks. Scheduling, yearly planning, and curriculum studying has been underway.

In the shuffle and excitement, many of these educators are overlooked. I have been on that side of the desk. I remember the sleepless nights of planning and preparation. As we rush into a new season of academics and athletics, let’s celebrate our educators and administrators.

Here is a little personal story meant just for them:

I did my student teaching in the 4th grade, which is a priceless, wonderful age. My student advisor was a veteran teacher of 30-some years. She was a blessing and a true educator, but my greatest teachers were the students.

I believe one lesson I learned should be shared with all who use red pens and stickers. This lesson came to me through a little guy named Michael.

Michael and I had a difficult relationship. I wanted him to follow the class rules. He didn’t want to follow the class rules. One rule he refused to follow was against tipping chairs.

The punishment had the usual classroom management procedure. Michael had been through all the preliminary steps and was at the final stage. If he tipped his chair, he had to stand.

This was difficult for me. He was a rotund fellow who wore nothing but sweat suits that fit him better in the beginning of 3rd grade than in the end of 4th grade. His seat was close to the front. Each time he had to stand, it was in the front of many viewers.

I hated making him stand. At times, I felt like it was more punishment for me. Yet, he continued to test me, and he continued to tip his chair.

On several occasions I took him aside and talked with him. I explained that I cared about him and didn’t want him to get hurt. The rule was there to protect him from a cracked head. He would always agree with the need for the rule and the punishment he was receiving.

The weeks continued. We would have several great days. Then it would happen again. The tipping and standing would return. I knew he had to hate me. I knew he would celebrate the day I left.

Well, the end of my student teaching arrived, and a party was planned. I remember sitting at the desk taking lunch count when Michael walked in from the bus. I never saw him look so happy. My heart broke. I knew he was celebrating that the end had finally come.

He came directly to my desk carrying a beat up gift bag. Horrible thoughts raced through my head. I could only dare to imagine the carnage he had placed in that bag of despair. As he handed it to me, I feared the worse. My imagination ran wild. Why would he bring me a present? What terrible item had he placed in the bag? Snakes? Spiders? Dog poop?

I thanked him and smiled.

“Please open it now, Mrs. Mlynek,” said Michael.

Aaahhh! Think quickly, don’t open this in front of the class whatever you do, I told myself. “No,” I said, “I will place it over here with the others and open it later.”

He looked hurt and disappointed, “Please,” he said again, “Please open it now. I have waited for this for weeks.”

Of course he has. He has been preparing for this attack since day one, thought I.

I looked at him again. His face still glowed with happiness, but there was something different about his eyes. I looked closer and could see tears beginning to form. Against all good sense and reasonable thinking, I opened the bag.

Inside was a beautiful wooden picture box. It was truly lovely. There was a slot for a picture on the very top.

“This slot is a place for my picture with you,” said Michael, with tears flowing down his chubby cheeks. “I saved up for weeks to buy it for you.”

I too was crying as I reached to hug this blessed little cuss that had driven me crazy for over eight weeks.

“You always cared enough to make me stand,” he said between sobs.

We shared a moment that I will never forget. His picture still sits in the slot on top of my beautiful picture box. He taught me many things that day, but the one I share now is the most important.

Teachers and administrators, your job is difficult. Besides reading, spelling and math, beyond writing, science and history, those that sit in front of you need more.

Remember Michael and what he taught me: They don’t care how much you know. They need to know how much you care.

This Week's Editorial:

By Helen Morris:

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