Looking back on my educational journey, I know I have been blessed with some amazing teachers along the way.  Teachers who have encouraged me, made me laugh, taught me things, challenged me, and took an interest in me and my success.  From singing “The Ants Go Marching” with Miss Appleyard, to watching “McGee and Me” with the Firminator, to sharing my love story with Jensen Ackles to Mrs. MacDougall in our Friday journals, or waiting for Mrs. Addis patiently along the wall (wait- was I on time?!)  in kindergarten, I have had some teachers who I have truly loved and I would say truly loved me (in the very teacher appropriate sense of the word).

In my daily life I remember lessons I was taught from my teachers: the way I stretch comes from watching Miss Sanford at every athletic event at Steele Street, and I wake up to Mrs. Graham’s voice every morning as I struggle to get out of bed: “When you wake up, get up, when you get up, wake up!”  The lessons I learned from my teachers goes far beyond the classroom (although they more than prepared me for high school and university- thank you!)



It is so cool to be able to look back at my teachers as a teacher.  I can see things in each one of them that I want to incorporate into my teaching practice, and I can hear little sayings, routines, even assignments and ways to connect with students from those who taught me in my teaching.  “Silence is a container in which music is placed,” Friday journals, and Greek Mythology (with a textbook my sister never returned to Miss Peck) are all things that are things I’ve learned from my educators. So, I probably have more than seven lessons here, but I’ll try and stick with to the rules.  And, I’ll try and make this not so philosophical and reflective- this is supposed to be a fun blog- it should be quirky, fun, and a little bit inspiring.

So without further adieu, Seven Lessons I learned about Teaching from My Teachers

 1. Get students to try new things- Mrs. Hyde   I don’t know how she did it, but our grade 1 teacher go us to eat and love Brussel Sprouts, a feat I’m sure our parents could only dream of achieving.  We were doing a vegetable unit, and she fed us these green delicacies- and I remember everyone mmmming and talking about how much they liked them. It must have been hilarious to see the parents reaction when we all went home asking for Brussel Sprouts.  My mom made them for me- they were not the same…   Students like the same old, the familiar and they are so apprehensive to try something new and I hope that I can figure out Mrs. Hyde’s secret recipe!

 2.  It’s okay to be weird- Mrs. Grandy.  Hands down the teacher that stands out the most to me was my Grade 6 and 7 teacher, Mrs. Grandy.  If you were in her class, other students were jealous.  I remember laughing a lot, and her really cool lace up boots.  Even her son, was okay being in her class (which is saying a lot!)  Anyway, Mrs. Grandy was weird and quirky.  She not only collected teddy bears, she was obsessed with them, and her teddy bear (pretty much her daughter) Charity, sat on her desk beside her. She’d talk and listen to it, and throw a fit if her beloved Charity was kidnapped.  That’s weird.  But totally wonderful.  Every teacher has to have “their thing.”  The eccentric and quirky teachers are totally the best and the most memorable.

 3. Be Passionate about Your Subject, and Teaching- Mr. Hand.  I never officially had Mr. Hand, but he taught my sister and roomed with my dad on our music trip.  Not only was he every girl’s crush (he was 23, baby faced and wore khaki pants and a sweater vest) but he was an amazing math teacher.  He loved math and it showed.  My sister told me once he got so excited that he had figured out his grocery bill down to the penny while waiting in the grocery line that he had to stop his lesson and tell the class.  That was like winning the lottery to him.  I ran into him recently, and he’s still in the same class, still super cute and excited about math.

 4.  Take Time to Add “Sizzle.”- Ms. Dinsmore  One of our service standards at Muskoka Woods was “Sizzle” which were those extra special, personal things you did for your campers to make their experience extraordinary.  Ms. Dinsmore inspired me in a lot of ways as a music teacher (and I hear her sarcasm come out every time I say, “uh, all the music professionals came out last night, and they devised this new concept- it’s called counting, let’s try it”).  But the one thing I’ll remember most is our trip to Disney, we were staying at the movie resort and next door there was the music resort with a pool shaped like a piano (seriously, how cool!) and I said how much I would love to swim in it.  Well, one night she gathered me and her daughters (and maybe one other kid) and took me all the way to the piano pool.  We were late for curfew, but I remember feeling so special; she had taken the time to add “sizzle” to my experience.  I hope I can do little things like that for my students.  (Although I don’t think we’re allowed to take them near water anymore… too many forms…)

 5. Take Each Student on the Next Step of their Journey Whatever that Is- Mr. Winfield.  Without a doubt, the most inspirational teacher I’ve worked with.  And this lesson is the reason why.  Mr. Winfield was an amazing musician, and he took us to some amazing musical places with some difficult and outstanding repertoire.  But, he wasn’t a teacher who was trying to make little Beethovens (or little Winfields) out of us.  He looked at where you were as a musician and made every effort to take you one step further.  For example, my last year of high school we had to sing a final solo, I wanted to do something cute and fun, but he handed me a Sonheim piece.  There was a guy in our class who wanted to be a folk singer and sing in pubs and so Mr. Winfield worked with him on “This Train Don’t Stop,” placing just as much value on it as my piece.  He worked with Mark at the piano every day, and Mark did an amazing job on his solo- and he is still singing to this day!  Also, my friend Lisa, was one of those sweet, quiet girls who just loved to be in choir, but wasn’t super comfortable singing a solo.  Mr. Winfield took her from singing a unison duet in grade 10, to a group number with solo lines that she sang with conviction and confidence.  All A+ performances in his mind.   I try and keep this in mind when teaching, where is the student at, and what can I do to get him/her to the next step.  Also, Mr. W’s rendition of “Great Balls of Fire” was legendary.  And don’t get me started on Gala.

6.  The “Non-Academic” Kids are just as, if not more, Rewarding to Teach -Mr. Welch Mr. Welch was THE OAC English teacher.  Students looked forward to getting to this course because, more than likely, you’d have Mr. Welch.  Not only would he do voices to Hamlet, he taught in a way that challenged you, and made you actually understand what you were reading.  He also solidly taught the basics, which helped me in my university English courses.  So, I was shocked when I got to work with him and he was teaching Grade 9 Applied English, and loving it!  How could this be?  He said, once he figured out how these kids learned, how they didn’t do homework, how they didn’t respond to marks and learning the way the academic kids did,  how they got bored with something after a while, he started to see amazing results and he actually preferred to teach that level.  I’ve taught a lot of 1P and workplace level courses since, and I know I wouldn’t enjoy them or be as successful at them if I hadn’t had a chance to work with Mr. Welch.

7.  Make Everyone Feel Special and Loved- Mrs. Addis  I asked my mom who my favourite teacher was and why and she said, without thinking, Mrs. Addis, my kindergarten teacher.  She said we would all line up early along the wall and wait for Mrs. Addis because we loved her and wanted to obey her instructions.  When I asked why we loved her, my mom said it must have been her quiet spirit and the love we knew we felt.  Wow.  Powerful Stuff.  That’s what I want to show my students and that’s how I want them to feel- loved and that they matter. Mrs. Addis was quiet and calm and not loud and flashy.  I’ve struggled as teacher, because I’m not that loud, funny and “cool” teacher that seems to win students over.  I’m more like Mrs. Addis, saying hi to as many students as I can in the hall, giving second chances, and asking students about their lives and their days.  And, talking to the quiet kids and trying to encourage them as much as possible- wait!  Lightbulb!  I was that quiet and shy kid (for those who know me now that would be sort of a shock, but I was painfully shy and quiet) and Mrs. Addis was that teacher who took an interest in me, and took the time to get to know me in her calm, kind way… Hmm.  I think I want to be like her more than anyone else.

Wow, this is long.  A few others (with no elaboration!)  Mrs. Appleyard- Things go better with a song,  Mrs. Ballad- Kindness goes a long way, Mrs. Firman- let students give you a nickname,  Mr. Brucker- even academic physics kids learn better if you do a crazy cool trick every day, Mrs. MacDougall- journals are an amazing way to dialogue with kids, and Mrs. Wormbecker- it’s not about being cool, its about being a good teacher!

CLICK on the SPEECH BUBBLE- what teachers do you remember and why?

  1. amariestan says:

    “sharing my love story with Jensen Ackles to Mrs. MacDougall in our Friday journals” This is hilarious on so many levels….

    • maltesegirl says:

      She had us do these weekly journals and she commented on them- “Own Choice” was always an option, so I wrote a continuing saga about our love affair- but she read it and made comments (both about writing and encouraging my silliness)!

  2. amber says:

    you perfectly encapsulated 3 of my favorite teachers in your top 7… i grew up feeling better about my own weirdness because of Mrs. grandy. I think my grade 6 year of school was the most laid back, fun and, i actually think i absorbed more information and learned more because of it.

    ms. dinsmore made music fun and not just the practical but the theory as well. One thing i would change in my life was to not go through my rebellious time starting the year of the Disney trip… it would have been so much fun!

    and then there is Mr. Welch, who i run into from time to time…, he was my favourite because he made everything relatable and he never picked favorites everyone was equal…. he was a football coach but never favored the players… everyone had to put their best effort in or it wasn’t good enough. he didn’t hold you to anyone else’s standards only what he knew you were capable of.

    i hope all teachers realise the impact and influence you have over such malleable minds and put your best out there for those kids☆ for a lot of kids you are the constant in their lives, you see them more then most other adults in their lives. my advice is to take your summers when possible to relax take time for yourself and your family so that you don’t burn out when the next set of fresh faces are sitting in front of you. You may never know what you will mean to these kids and in what part of their lives your leasons may play a roll. thank you for devoting your lives to our future as a country every kid in your class is important. thank you for taking our children’s education as a high priority… we are all privileged to have education in our lives. i cant say thank you enough.

  3. Em, I’ve been following your updates on FB and I have to tell you, on more than one occasion I have thought to myself ‘Wow, what a great teacher! Her students are so lucky to have her!’ You can tell that you have truly found your calling. I hope that you know that your students will absolutely think of you and your passion for music fondly when they have graduated and moved on with their own life adventures. You are an inspiration all your own! 🙂

  4. Kim Faulkner says:

    Love the post, Em!
    What I found the most fascinating was that while you and I went to school together from K-OAC, and therefore had some of the same teachers, who we connected with was different. A couple of the ones you mentioned were influential for me as well (Hand and Welch, for example), but for the most part I had barely uttered a word to many of them. I really would have never have assumed that these teachers were so influential, because I personally didn’t connect…

    What is even more incredible is that I had SO many teachers who shaped me, went the extra mile and took me under their wing when it was very much needed. This goes to show the calibre of teachers we were blessed with at Steele Street and Eastview… I honestly would not be the person I am today if it wasn’t for my teachers growing up. I give thanks to them so often, and I am so warmed to hear that you received the same kind of unconditional positive regard and love from teachers under the same roof. We are lucky people!

    And you inspired me to give a shout out to the teachers who were shape shifters in my life:
    Ms. Shedden – for seeing the gifts and talents within me, which I couldn’t see for a very long time.
    Mrs. Cooper – for instilling a strong set of life values and morals, as well as the importance of good manners…
    Ms. Szentes – for seeing me when I was struggling and taking me under her wing in my time of greatest need…
    Ms. McKay – for reminding me of the importance of taking care of my body and to never underestimate how far you can push yourself…
    Mr. Fontaine – for reminding me to continue to seek the beauty and pleasure in the simple, everyday life…

    Awwwwww ha ha …that was a long response! My apologies – I couldn’t help myself!

    • maltesegirl says:

      I love responses- especially ones like that! It is interesting how we didn’t have much overlap- I don’t think I had much interaction with any of those teachers! I don’t know if I knew it at the time, but we had an amazing group of teachers at Eastview- so diverse and strong in many areas! I was back visiting and everyone is still in their same classrooms, still being wonderful!

  5. […] Don’t believe me?  Check out this post:  https://emstop7.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/405/ […]

  6. […] Don’t believe me?  Check out my post:  https://emstop7.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/405/ […]

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