Students appreciate teachers during special event

Irish poet and playwright, William Butler Yeats once penned, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

I love the imagery that evokes, for who among us cannot recall at least one special teacher somewhere along the way, who imparted to our souls far more than rote information – sparking within us a yearning for something greater than ‘good enough’.

I was recently privileged to attend a local teacher appreciation evening that reminded me how truly powerful can be the blessing of one good teacher in a young person’s life.

Hosted by a local stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS church), the first annual’ Teaching: No Greater Call’ event gathered approximately 80 people together for an inspiring evening of musical performances, edifying talks, and most importantly, heartfelt tributes to area teachers by their students.

Eight graduating LDS youth from various congregations within Central Alberta each selected one teacher to honour, presenting them with a framed, written tribute which described (in the student’s own words) the impact the teacher had in the life of that student.

Honoured that evening were Sue Tuff (Bowden Grandview School), Pamela Parker (Lacombe Junior High), Christine Aalhus (Lacombe Composite High), Rob Freiman (Hugh Sutherland-Carstairs), Marla Kolybaba (Bentley School), Kerry Heisler (H.J. Cody-Sylvan Lake), and Nate Siler (Lindsay Thurber-Red Deer).

What can’t be properly captured and conveyed in words is the sublime emotional impact felt by all present as each student rose with his or her teacher to read their prepared tributes.

It was deeply moving to watch both teacher and student bask in unadulterated joy and gratitude for the special relationship that bonded them at this important crossroad in a student’s life.

“She has always been that one person at school who cared enough to take time out of her crazy schedule to talk to me or just to listen while I worked through things.”

“I don’t think he ever gets a lunch hour to himself, as he always makes himself available to help his students excel.”

“When I think about you, I tear up because you helped me and were there for me when I needed you most. I move toward something now. I believe everything happens for a reason and that if I didn’t have you as my teacher I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Powerful expressions, beautifully delivered.

I was likewise moved by the fact that administrators from Red Deer Public and Wolf Creek school divisions were also in attendance that night, in a meaningful show of support for their honoured teachers.

It speaks volumes about the caliber of leadership that guides education in our area, when administrators take time out of their busy, personal lives to support students and staff in this way – above and beyond their mandated work environment.

I sat at a table that evening with one such leader, Jim Clevette, principal of Lindsay Thurber High School here in town.

“The evening was a very special event for me,” said Clevette. “And I know it would be for all staff. It is particularly gratifying for a teacher to know that you have made a difference in at least one student’s life, since so often as teachers we see students for a few short years on a daily basis, and then have little contact with them after they graduate.

“I know Mr. Siler was very pleased to be recognized,” he continued. “And I look forward to attending similar events in the coming years.”

To make a difference in someone’s life. To change the world, by influencing one person’s worldview. This is the treasured gift of education – the supernal blessing of one good teacher.

Pop singer Rob Thomas captured the ironic profundity of such seemingly ‘small’ contributions, rendered a thousand times a day by millions of teachers throughout the world:

Our lives are made

In these small hours

These little wonders,

These twists & turns of fate.

Time falls away,

But these small hours,

These small hours still remain.

The ‘Teaching: No Greater Call’ evening was itself a little wonder – a brilliant gem sure to remain bright in the hearts of those present.

If you’re a teacher reading this, consider yourself thanked and blessed.