A couple months ago we put a call out to our readers asking for stories about their most inspirational teacher or coach. The following are some of those stories. For all the stories, visit www.srperspective.com.
Encouraging words helped shape me
By Jean Erickson of Sunburg
I started kindergarten at four years old and turned five in October. I walked the equivalent of three blocks to school. That teacher as well as the first grade one lauded my artwork, printing, class participation and making friends easily. By the time second grade rolled around I was placed in the second/third grade class under the guidance of Miss Bethke, whose report card comments were, “likes to write stories and illustrate them.” The final remarks as I was promoted to third grade irked my daughters and husband to no end. It read, “Jean has a sunny disposition and it was just like a ray of sunshine glowing in our room.” As an adult I wrote to her and thanked her for the encouragement.
A new school was built for my 4th grade year where the walk was about one mile on our road. Since it wasn’t quite done when school was starting, our group got bussed to a school where we occupied a basement classroom. My teacher was Mrs. Hallock and she perpetuated my learning experience with her report card praise: “Jean has superior penmanship and artistic talent” -- ending with “She had a splendid past year with me, making a pleasant memory.”
After fifth grade and three days of sixth grade at the new school, I got asked to return to my first school. The population of kids from new houses being built in that area was the reason. Mr. Raymond Schueffner rounded out the grade six report card with these comments, “Strives for neatness and accuracy plus has the ability to gather and organize information.”
These are the building blocks I gained from adults who encouraged me to pursue interesting venues and pushed me to do my best.
Forever grateful to a good-hearted teacher!
By Janice Shovelain
Coming back from recess with tears in my eyes, my teacher saw that I was crying. She took me aside and asked me what was wrong. I started to cry more because my classmates were trying to hide from me. My teacher said, that my classmates were probably playing hide and seek with me. It wasn’t because they didn’t want to play with me. By saying this, my teacher helped me feel better about myself.
A couple of weeks later, we were in the gym when my teacher and another teacher were talking and one of my classmates tripped my teacher on accident. She got hurt and was out of school for the next two weeks. I felt bad for her and convinced my dad to take me to her house to play my accordion for her. I wanted to make her feel better, like how she made me feel.
When she came back to school, she told the class how thoughtful it was that I had come to her house to play my accordion to try and make her feel better, like she had for me. Also that week, there was a contest in our classroom to pick a King and Queen for the class. I didn’t get chosen as the Queen, but I was the second runner up. I feel I got picked because of my teacher’s praise of how thoughtful I was to her in making her feel better.
Through these experiences, I am forever grateful to Miss Ruth Locgo as she gave me the self-confidence to be the person I am today.
Simple Advice: Huge Challenge
By Gay (Derby) Ekberg of Herman
The top five students in our class of 43 students gave speeches during the Herman High School Graduation. In 1967, being assigned to write and deliver such a speech for commencement, I became quite anxious. Thus, I cannot remember the other speeches just that they were given with gusto and confidence. What I do remember are the comments given by our Superintendent, Robert “Big Bob” Anderson. He told us while working in our future careers to remember “cooperation” is the MOST important thing. I thought to myself at the time, “Well, how hard can that be? You just be nice and well... cooperate.”
I thought of his words many times while working in education as a speech/language pathologist in the public schools. Working with students, teachers, special education teams, parents and administration... well, there were lots of situations that called for, yep, that word from my high school graduation, “cooperation.”
Cooperation proved to be a challenging and difficult task at times but it did make a positive difference when applied and it proved beneficial. I would certainly thank him for his wisdom and the clear, concise advice he left with the Herman High School Class of 1967.
Thanks to my Sunday School teacher
By Sharla Bengston of Wood Lake, Minn.
My Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Genevie Peterson, was one who inspired me. She was so loving and kind as a teacher. She was always smiling and happy. She made Sunday school fun. She taught at the United Methodist church for many years in Worthington, Minnesota. I had her for a teacher for third grade about 1963. She has inspired me to volunteer my time like she did. I have taught Sunday school, Awana and Adventure Clubs at my church and volunteered for Girl Scouts and Manor Hospital Auxiliary in Granite Falls.
Mrs. Peterson was an older lady and I think we all thought of her as another grandma. I would love to tell her thank you. Also, to tell her I still read my Bible and pray. Also I would say thanks for sharing her life and time being a Sunday School teacher and impacting my life.
He made history interesting, showed how government worked
By John Mersinger of Foley, Sebeka Public School, Class of 1963
The school year was 1961-1962. I was a junior in Mr. Flemming’s history class. He looked over the class, “You guys shouldn’t worry about Germany.” There was an active draft at that time, and he was speaking to us draft eligible boys. The Berlin wall was being built, heating up the Cold War. He explained how the Communists started the wall on a weekend because the democratic government of the United States couldn’t react until government convened on Monday. “You guys should be concerned about Vietnam,” he said. My thought was, where in the heck is Vietnam? Had he said Indochina, I would have known the area of the world it was located. I found out where it was... four years later it was under my feet!
That man had a deep understanding of how our government worked. I don’t recall him ever criticizing a Democrat or a Republican in our government. I believe I learned/retained more in Mr. Flemming’s class that year than any class in school.
On a nice spring day, the class would go outside, hold a relaxing, stress-free class, an hour of discussion to throwing paper airplanes on the school lawn, much to the disapproval of the head custodian. Mr. Flemming was at my school two or three years then moved on to Sitka, Alaska. He passed away in Alaska.
My favorite teacher
By Jean Lemmon of Buffalo
We had a graduating class of 96 students at Wahpeton, ND, in 1960. Six people in my class earned doctorate degrees and one practiced medicine for many years at the famed Mayo Clinic.
I was proud of my classmates. I was also proud of the teachers who helped us strive for excellence. They brought out the best in us.
My favorite teacher was Mrs. Lauder. She wore many hats. She taught several English classes and was our high school librarian. She was also our drama coach. She directed many over-the-top plays, spending hours on her perfect, audience pleasers.
I was one her high school library helpers. She never scolded, only praised. She often said, “Knowledge is the key to success.”
Lucky for me, I had Mrs. Lauder for both my freshmen and senior year. English was my favorite subject. I had a passion for creative writing, with a lot of poetry in the mix.
One day, Mrs. Lauder gave us a special writing assignment, “I want you to write your credo.”
I was ashamed to admit I didn’t know what the word “credo” meant. She then further explained, “I want to know what you believe.” she said we could write it in any form. So I chose poetry as it was my favorite.
I worked hard on my credo assignment. It was not a chore, it was fun. On the day they were due, Mrs. Lauder chose the “best of the best” and read them outloud.
My poem was one of the ones chosen. I was so proud. When she finished reading my creation, she paused and said, “Now this class, is real poetry.” I probably had tears in my eyes after that supportive statement.
Mrs. Lauder would be proud to know I still write “real” poetry and creative stories. I worked as a newspaper reporter for six years and wrote a weekly column. It included many samples of my poetry for my readers. I taught a creative writing class to eighth graders at the Native American boarding school.
Maybe some day I’ll meet Mrs. Lauder in heaven. She will probably be leading an angelic production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
And thanks to her, I have lived a wonderful life filled with passion for the written word.
Thank you Mrs. Lauder for believing in me.
By Sharon Craig of Granite Falls
Some people leave large footprints in our lives and teach us valuable lessons. During our Senior English class, the teacher was such a person. He passed on the following poem to us, his students, called Building Bridges by Will A. Dromgoole. If I could speak to him today, I would thank him for passing on a wonderful perspective on life!
A pilgrim, going a lone highway,
Came at evening, cold and gray
To a chasm, deep and vast and wide.
The man crossed in the twilight dim.
The chasm held no fears for him
But, he paused when he reached the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Man,” said a pilgrim near,
“Why waste your time in building here?”
Your journey ends with the close of day
You never again will pass this way.
You’ve passed the chasm deep and wide
Why build ye here at eventide?”
The pilgrim raised his head,
“My friend, in the path I’ve come, he said,
There followeth after me today
A fair-haired youth who must pass this way.
The chasm, which held no fears for me,
To the fair-haired youth, may a pitfall be.
He too must cross in the twilight dim.
My friend, I am building this bridge for him.”
Inspired to Write
By Dan Hovland of Willmar
It was in seventh grade English class in Alexandria, Minnesota in 1961 where I met the teacher that most influenced my life. Our teacher, Erling Rolfsrud, was an accomplished writer and he passed the love of “putting pen to paper” on to many of his students, including me. Besides teaching the basics of writing, Mr. Rolfsrud used several creative writing activities to turn our imagination into exciting stories. I remember one activity in which we started a story, then passed the paper to another student to add on the next part, then continued on until we were told to put an ending to the story we had if front of us. The fun came when each student read the result. Mr. Rolfsrud encouraged us to keep a journal and I did so in 1962. In fact, I have kept a daily journal most of my life.
I have a feeling that Mr. Rolfsrud saw a talent for writing in me that needed reinforcement. Like him, I was a shy, poor farm kid who found the writing tablet to be a bit of a safe space. Mr. Rolfsrud showed his care for me as an individual because he came to see me at our home when I was recovering from hernia surgery that spring. He brought me a signed hard copy of one of his first books, Gopher Tales for Papa.
I had a chance to thank Mr. Rolfsrud for his encouragement personally in 1984 when he was invited to speak at our local historical society meeting. He then signed a book I bought, “Best wishes to my one-time English student.”
Erling Rolfsrud died in 1994 at age 81. As a local headline proclaimed, “His memory will continue to inspire.” He continues to inspire me even now!
By Cindy Midas of New Ulm
I had an inspirational teacher in fourth grade -- Ms. Mary Zlock. I had gone to a one room (8 grades) little white country school for first, second and third grades. There were only two in my class (Judy and myself). Unfortunately, in the fall of my fourth grade year the school was closed and auctioned off. We had to be bussed and attend a public school, so that summer was very nerve wracking for me. Turns out, it was not as nerve wracking as my first day of school the next fall. My only friend I’d known for three years was Judy, and the county split up. She was sent to Richmond. I was very miserable and had a long bus ride. My parents went to the school board and after several weeks I was transferred to Richmond. Ms. Zlock allowed me to join her class so I could be reunited with Judy. This helped me have a new outlook on school.
Ms. Zlock made me feel so welcome and believed in me. She helped me excel in all my subjects. She helped me enter the spelling bee and I did well in that. I gained confidence and it boosted my self esteem.
Ms. Zlock allowed me to be her pen pal and we wrote each other letters several summers. She became someone I really admired and looked up to. Growing up on a farm and being the second oldest child, I wasn’t allowed to do socializing, so Mary became my summer buddy and I looked forward to walking the long driveway to get the mail because there might be a letter from Mary that day. I could write anything to Mary because she didn’t judge or demean me. To this day I really believe a teacher can “make or break you” for life and I credit my high self esteem, good academic grades, desire to learn and almost 12 years of perfect attendance to my fourth grade teacher, Ms. Mary Zlock.