Off Script: Teachers leave an impact beyond the classroom

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To all of the teachers in our community, who speak out in the social sphere, who continue to uplift our students while silently keeping it together — I see you. I appreciate you. I wish there was something, anything I could do or say to help alleviate the challenges that have caused waves in the lives of so many educators even before COVID came raining down.

I am thankful for the teachers who have made an impact in my life. While not all of the teachers I have had have made a positive one, they still made an impact that drove me to succeed. And as trivial as it sounds, was a great motivator to prove them wrong.

Some of my most memorable moments have been with educators in Winters growing up. It’s the main factor behind moving back here with my family. It’s also a main factor on why my children are still going to school here.

About two or so years ago at a Winters Joint Unified School District board meeting, Jennifer Klockzo led us through an activity where we thought of a teacher who made an impact in our lives.

A list of feel-good memories ran through my mind as I tried to narrow it down to some moment that really stood out. 

From my fifth grade teacher in Vallejo who first inspired me to write. To my days as an angry teenager, when I first moved to this small town — Laurie Helm, Rebecca Fridae and Sue Bridge always said something so simple and, yet, profound that I changed my perspective about moving to Winters.

To Liz Coman who has always been one of my biggest fans throughout my adult life in publishing. And even to teachers I never had, I’m looking at you Matt Moran, whose passion for teaching and connecting with students made an impact on my perspective — even as an adult.

The struggle was real, but two individuals (and possibly unexpected individuals) stood out when it was time to share.

Mike Challendar gave extra effort to help me pass a subject I not only had failed at, but I had little confidence that I could ever understand. After failing Algebra II the first time, I saw only struggle in trying to squeeze by with a “C” grade.

Somehow that man, at the early uncaffeinated hour of 7 a.m., was able to help me make sense of it. And even though I now have a mini computer/calculator in my pocket — I can at least help my daughter with her algebra homework without having to furiously rush to YouTube to find the answer.

I passed Algebra II that year. There was no “A” in sight, but I confidently passed that class.

The second educator was Jack Delbar. It wasn’t his Driver’s Education course or his way of making us run during his stint as one of the varsity softball coaches though. Delbar believed in me from the sidelines and threw out words of wisdom that would echo throughout my life even after he had passed.

He saw some spark in my ability as a leader, that at the time, I was oblivious to. When faced with hard decisions he would say things like, “You are in charge, aren’t you?” among other unmentionable phrases.

It may have led to an overabundance of confidence now as an adult. But, it’s his words I hear often when I am most unsure of the challenge in front of me.

My point is that educators aren’t there to just teach their students the basics of writing, math, and other subjects. While that is the main point of the job, educators do more than that. They are the folks who help students to find their places and discover their talents. They encourage their students to use their imaginations to reach beyond narrowing it down to a “job” or “college major” to pursue.

They are also on the front line to intercept when something has gone wrong or when things have become difficult. They have become the first in line to help children navigate through emotional experiences, tragedies in life and protectors when harm comes on campus.

The role of and the expectations of educators has gone beyond what they are compensated for. Educators do not enter the profession to bring in the big bucks. From the people who I know who became teachers, and continue to teach, they are there because they care and revel in seeing the light bulbs go off when young people discover something new.

While we have all been through something fierce this past year, as a parent I want to acknowledge that our educators have really been through the ringer. Without piling up the garbage they experienced, I would like to commend them.

The educators I had the privilege to observe never stopped working, learning new things, or trying new things to help support students in our community. And when it was clear that some students were struggling, they didn’t just cast them aside as a lost cause.

Our community truly gets behind our youth and uplifts and supports them.

I know I’m not alone in this, but thank you to everyone who works in the education industry. You’re making a difference whether you know it or not.

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