I have answered several surveys that query the name of my favorite teacher, and why. The question brings pause as I begin to think and narrow the list based on the good things and not so good things that I can remember about my classroom days. 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, nothing stands out as life changing. 4th, 5th, 6th…same teacher for two out of those three years. Well enough of my memories and now on to the sole purpose of my article this week, and her name is Mrs. White, a first grade teacher at North Plains Elementary.
I was given the pleasure of working with Mrs. White and her amazing classroom of first graders by the Minot Area Chamber EDC. Through civic leaders, the Chamber offers a Junior Achievement program. I guess you can call Junior Achievement taking your local community and breaking it down to a grade school level.
In week one, we learned about our community. But also, in week one I learned about Mrs. White and the well-organized classroom she maintains. We used to sing the song about “reading and writing and arithmetic, taught to the tune of a hickory stick.” They still teach all of those things in Mrs. White’s class, but to the tune of Mrs. White’s smile and calming voice. Her smile is infectious, and you can see the kids react and start to smile along when she makes note of “how Mr. Wilson is having to speak with his outdoor voice, because you all are speaking with your outdoor voices. Is that, OK?” And then the room goes quiet, and Mr. Wilson starts into a lesson on how every community has important jobs, like policemen, firefighters and teachers.
The Junior Achievement course is half an hour a week for five weeks. The kids are given nameplates so that I am able to call on them by their first names. How I wish I could call on each and every student when I ask a question, but that can’t happen. I have to do classroom triage and try to think of which student I called on last. All of the answers are good answers, but you have to draw the line somewhere. I am in the classroom for only half of an hour for five weeks; I can imagine the challenge Mrs. White has in keeping all of her students engaged for six hours per day, five days a week (most weeks). It may, or more correctly, it does border on sainthood, especially after Mrs. White shares with me that she has been a teacher for 30 years.
On several occasions throughout my guest teaching visits at North Plains, I would have one of the students share what is unique to a military student. I heard statements like, “we are moving as soon as school as over” or ” I like it here, but my mom and dad want to move.” Another statement that drew a tear from my eye was one of the students sharing that his dad was deployed and he missed him a lot. Finally, there is that question that can only come from a military child, “Where are you going to PCS this summer?” I never knew the meaning of PCS until my tenure with the Northern Sentry began four years ago. Now I know all too well about the lifestyle of pulling up stakes and heading to a new base, a new school and a new neighborhood.
That lifestyle is what makes a teacher like Mrs. White so important. The understanding that not unlike other non-military schools, each student at North Plains has a unique story to tell. Several times my lesson planning would take a back seat to the stories the kids shared. And in those moments Mrs. White would tactfully step in and get us back on track. Hey, I am not a teacher, I am a journalist. My job is to listen and write stories.
I can already tell you that if I am asked to be a guest teacher next year, I will request Mrs. White. My wish may not be honored, and I guess that is how life goes. But if Mrs. White can affect change on a 60+ year old journalist and make him appreciate every minute in her classroom, imagine how she affects change on all those young minds that have the privilege of being part of her class for nine months.
Best Kept Secret
It may not be the “best” kept secret…because we’ve talked about Jamaican Vybz Kitchen before. Located in Main Medical building at the south end of Main Street, they have rolled out a new Jerk Chicken Quesadilla. WOW! Tried one today and it was one of the best Quesadillas ever. So head in and ask Steve or Heidi for their Jerk Chicken Quesadilla.
Wouldn’t it be great if your children behaved like you think you did when you were young?