My Teacher, My Mentor

“Do you know the secret of the true scholar?  In every man there is something wherein I may learn of him; and in that I am his pupil.”  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

I became a teacher after I had worked in the non-profit world and obtained an MS in Rural and Small Town Planning.  When I began graduate school, my intention was to pursue an MPA and continue working as a non-profit executive.  That was my plan.  God had a different plan.  One morning I woke up and realized I really wanted to be a teacher.  I looked around and found that the local alternative school was in need of a middle school language arts teacher.  I had previously taken the Teacher Certification Test and passed it, so I was eligible to teach with a provisional certificate. I interviewed and was hired.

I was hired to begin teaching in the middle of the school year.  The students had not had a fully certified teacher for the entire first semester, and I had not had any training as a teacher.  I was not nominated for Disney’s First Year Teacher Award probably in large part because I had NO idea what I was doing.  I managed behavior. I did not teach.  We made it to the end of the year.

The next year was better. Why?  I became a TAPP (Teacher Alternative Preparation Program) Teacher.  As a program participant, I was required to submit lesson plans, attend mentor meetings, and reflect on my teaching practices.  I would not have made it through the program if it weren’t for my mentor.  I was fortunate in that my mentor loved baseball, had a dry sense of humor like me, and was super organized.  Mike had the most detailed mind I had ever come across plus he was so very intelligent.  Over the course of the two years we had to work together, he observed me, shared resources with me, and most importantly, he helped shaped me into the teacher I became.  Mike always made sure he had time to answer my questions, and he encouraged me without being over-the-top syrupy or fake.  I knew when he said I did something well that he meant it.  He chose his words carefully, and I always knew that he was sincere.

I finished TAPP and received my clear renewable teaching certificate.  I was so very happy, yet at the same time I was sad.  I knew that our time together would end.  We worked together just one more year, and then we both left the school to work in other places.  I went back to my alma mater and he left to work in another county,   I often wish that I could see him and talk to him.  I want to tell him how much his help meant to me.  I want to let him know that I turned out to be a pretty okay teacher.  I just really want to say thanks for being an inspiration to a totally unprepared teacher wannabe who ended up being Teacher of the Year.  Well done, Mike.  You had a hand in all of what I have done.