Remembering Memorable Teachers
Great Educators Stand Out for Variety of Reasons
by Karen Strong
Q: When you think back on your
teachers, who comes to mind and why?
A: Here are my personal recollections.
As the school year draws to a close,
we all know teachers who are scrambling
to wrap up the year successfully and looking forward to a change of pace for the
summer months. I have never been a public school teacher, but I have great admiration for them—largely because of several
teachers who made indelible impressions
on me in my formative years.
Settle back and indulge me for a bit
while I write about some of the teachers
who stand out in my memory.
The Fun of Learning
My fourth-grade teacher had the
dubious honor of making sure that all 30+
students in her class learned the multiplication tables. In order to teach this
memory work, she had a special poster for
each number: a farm scene behind the 1x,
a park scene behind the 2x, and so on.
But that wasn’t the only creative visual
element in her classroom. It was filled with
happy, bright things to enjoy and reflected
her attitude of fun in the process of learning. In many subtle ways, she communicated that acquiring knowledge—even
if it was multiplication tables—could be
A Teacher’s True Heart
My fifth-grade teacher was a stern,
no-nonsense woman who scared every one
of us into becoming disciplined students.
There was no room for what my grandmother would have called “malarkey” in
that classroom. My fifth-grade teacher took
a dedicated approach to imparting what
we needed to know, and she expected us
to be dedicated, as well. Throughout the
year, we found ourselves stretching to try
to measure up to her expectations.
It was only after school was out that
I saw her heart. My family went to the
Dallas-Fort Worth area to go to the Six
Flags Over Texas amusement park. We
were walking down a downtown street in
Fort Worth when suddenly there was my
teacher! She burst into a huge smile and
wrapped her arms around me in genuine
affection. Only then did I get a glimpse of
her feelings for her students, but I knew
immediately that her love for us was a mile
My Driving ‘Coach’
When I was growing up, teenagers
could get a learner’s permit to drive at age
13 and a regular driver’s license at 14. One
summer, one of the middle school coaches
was my driver’s education instructor. We
met in the choir room (which was probably the only room that could be used as
a raised lecture hall) for him to open up
the world of driving to us. We listened
intently and then did our best to impress
him when we got our turn to drive the car
(which included a brake on the passenger
side for the coach). He was a congenial
fellow who was very serious about keeping
Later on, when I was 15, I was driving carefully below the speed limit in a
residential area when a careless driver
blasted past a yield sign and slammed
into my driver’s-side door. In the aftermath, one of my first thoughts was that
the coach would be disappointed in my
driving skills. How I hated the thought of
letting him down!
Breathing Life into History
I somehow managed to get through
a whole series of history classes without
discovering the joy of learning history. But
fortunately, when I was in high school, I
experienced a master teacher in the Texas
history class. This man breathed life into
the historical characters, introducing
them to us as though he had known them
personally. Furthermore, he drew us into
the historical events by placing us in the
decision-making role: “If the other general
moves this direction, what would you
Not only did I learn Texas history,
but I learned to love the background of
events and decisions that led us to today.
Even now, all these years later, I have an
insatiable hunger to know the story behind
any new place I visit. I guess that is the
definition of a lifelong learner.
Hats Off to Our Teachers
Hats off to all the hard-working teachers in Texas public schools who make
learning fun, who care deeply for their students, who train students on important life
skills, and who bring dry content to life.
Kudos to each of you!H
Karen Strong is TASB associate executive director
of Communications and Public Relations.