Celebrating Teachers Everywhere

Whenever Teacher Appreciation Week draws near, I think back to all the teachers that have impacted my life in some way. There are teachers that inspired me to go into education, and others who taught me how to better my craft. Yes, there are even some who taught me what not to do. I still thank them, for I learned from them. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week that begins tomorrow, I thought I would share many of the teachers that affected my life in one way or another.

My parents – My parents were the first people in my life who instilled the importance of reading. Though many people thought they were crazy (like my own grandparents), they began reading to me as soon as I was born. I grew up loving stories by A. A. Milne, Stan & Jan Berenstain, Beverly Cleary, and Roald Dahl, and laughing at poetry from Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. My father was a great role model who, without fail, would read the newspaper every day after coming home from work. As an elementary school teacher at my first school, my mother made sure I had dedicated teachers early on who would look out for me and teach me the essentials. Because of my parents, I saw the value in learning and loved reading early on.

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My father is still a great role model, but now for my son Ryan.

Mr. Tiberio – I have always loved music, but I’ll admit I was not the best musician. I did, however, continue playing clarinet and stay in band all the way through my senior year. I know this was mainly because of my teacher, Mr. Tiberio. “T” made being in band enjoyable. He chose songs that were popular and fun to play, like “In the Mood,”  and he always had a smile on his face. No matter how students behaved in band or in lessons, he never showed the slightest signs of anger. I could see how much he loved music, and that made me love it too. I know his positive attitude inspired me to always stay optimistic as a teacher.

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Getting ready for a day of marching with my friend Erin.

Mr. Costanza – After a rough year in 5th grade, I left for summer vacation thinking school just wasn’t something I was very good at. Thankfully, my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Costanza, showed me that I was a lot smarter than I thought. I went from Cs in 5th grade to all As in 6th grade. Why? I had a teacher who believed in me. He smiled at me instead of yelled at me. He made learning fun for me again, and I am so thankful for that. Who knows what my school would have been like if I had two awful years in a row.

Mr. Ognibene  – Science was not my best subject, but Mr. Ognibene made me Chemistry easy and enjoyable. He was another teacher that never seemed to show any signs of frustration, and that made him easy to talk to when I needed help. I saw his calm demeanor as a necessity, for at the same time I had him, I had other teachers that yelled at the drop of a hat. I learned of patience and its importance early on in my teaching career because of Mr. Ognibene.

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I ran into Mr. Ognibene at an education rally in Albany, NY.

Ms. Reedy and Mr. Shaw – I didn’t always want to be a teacher, but when I decided to change my major to education, these two English teachers inspired me to choose English as my content area. Ms. Reedy made William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice entertaining, and Mr. Shaw showed me the importance of research in my life. Both teachers were passionate about their content, and I thought of them countless times throughout my first few years as a teacher.

Mrs. Miller – My student teaching experiences were very uneventful. Sure I enjoyed them, but I don’t think they prepared me for my first year of teaching at all! My first year of teaching was in a long-term substitute position, and the teacher I was in for, Mrs. Miller, was out on maternity leave. The teachers at the school were not all that helpful, but even from home, she was. Her organization and classroom management helped make my transition into her room a smooth one. She had passion for her content, and I could tell her students saw it too. I worked hard, for I wanted them to see that I could inspire them too, just like she had. Mrs. Miller also didn’t seem to mind my constant phone calls when I needed suggestions for units and planning. She wrote me a wonderful letter of recommendation when I left, and we continued to share ideas when I began teaching at my next school. We developed units together, won awards together, and traveled to conferences together. When I wanted to talk about my passion for a unit or book, I called her. I wanted to speak to someone who has the same drive that I did. Our friendship continued to evolve over the years, and still continues to this day. I know I wouldn’t be where I am now without her.

My Cleve Hill Peeps – You all know who you are! (I wish I had pictures of everyone, but I never have my phone with me!) You all inspire me day in and day out to keep doing all I can for our kids. I am proud to teach with you!

Teacher Writers– “Teacher Writers” is my term for all of those amazing teachers that have published books about their craft to help others better theirs. There are SO many educators out there that have inspired me! Teachers like Donalyn Miller, Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher, Nancie Atwell, Kylene Beers, Teri Lesesne, Linda Rief, and many others have published inspiring books that I have read to better myself as a teacher.

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Meeting Kelly Gallagher at Erie 1 BOCES workshop.

To all the educators out there, thank you for all that you do, and know that you are always appreciated!

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