Back to School (in our memories)

Stan Silverman. Rod McKinney. Jennifer Condrey. Professor John McKnight.  These are some of the teachers who left a permanent footprint on my soul. Whether it was getting me through my first public speaking assignment in 6th grade, or teaching me about life through the conduit of trigonometry in 10th grade, or inspiring me through the great American Classics in 12th grade, or introducing me to my first legitimate civic stewardship engagement in college . . there is much commonality.  As we welcome in the start of another school year, you can feel it in the air.  All of us, regardless of our age, have a memory of a favorite teacher(s) . . . .someone whose impact on us truly changed our life.  And, for some of us, that impact led to becoming teachers ourselves.

Back to school and in celebration of all those wonderful teachers molding the future contributors in our country, I sat down with one of my new favorite people in my Experienced Engaged journey, Carol Tierney, who was– I can only imagine –the most extraordinary teacher.

I met Carol when she and I worked together as Experience Engaged fellows and Health Coaches at St. Anthony North Medical Center in early 2020. Carol is one of the most engaging people I know. She is whip smart with a tremendous sense of humor and ever-regaling in her storytelling. Lucky me, as I invited her to reflect upon a prior career in teaching . . .she did not disappoint.

Carol spent five summers teaching English to kids overseas—three in Poland and one each in Latvia and Lithuania. And when she started out with “A guy walks into a bar . . . “ as her primary teaching tool through the use of humor, I knew I was in for a ride.  She was quick to emphasize, though, that she has learned more from her students than she feels she taught them . . . .humility to boot.

Carol proclaims such inner joy when she talks about seeing the light bulbs go on in her students.

I would also be remiss in not reflecting upon the perseverance Carol showed in becoming a teacher at all, as she shared openly her rather “self-made” status with training that has since come a long way, as it were.

Carol, I am presenting the proverbial apple to you with gratitude.

And, how about all of you? What does this time of year conjure up for you? Maybe it’s the memory of buying a brand new shiny set of school supplies? Or, perhaps that game of competitive kickball at recess? Is it learning English for the first time, maybe even overseas before landing here in the United States? Is it the memory of “your Miss Carol”? Is it setting up your own classroom in your own unique way? We would love to hear from you.

I leave you with a BIG SHOUT OUT to all the wonderful teachers and eager students who return to their classrooms this fall for what we all hope will be a more conventional, in-person school year.