Despite the rampant ugliness in the world and all we conjure up to separate ourselves from others, we all have at least one thing in common, regardless of race, religion or economic status. We all have been positively influenced by a teacher.
Along the way somewhere, sometime, we have had that one teacher who stands out as most impactful, most impressionable, most motivational. There is a teacher who will forever remain etched in our minds as the one who was kind, caring and nurturing.
I cannot think of another profession that reaches every single living, breathing person on the planet. Not even doctors have the breadth of impact. There is a power teachers possess that is wonderful and mighty, integral and influential, and it is for this avenue of impact that many teachers teach.
Just ask a teacher why they do what they do. It certainly isn’t for the money or the prestige, because both of these have slid way down the ranks of incentives. Call it cliché, but the majority of teachers teach because they desire to be good stewards of that power of influence that rests in the hands of public educators. They worry about our country’s children, hope for a better life for them, and long to be a difference-maker.
I caught a glimpse of a difference-maker over at Double Churches Elementary school. Most of you have been to a classroom like Mrs. Cooper’s. Hers is the pre-K class you probably walked your little one to on the first day of school. Hers is the classroom decorated with warmth and invitation in the hopes of winning over the nervous, apprehensive ones still clinging to momma or daddy’s leg.
Mrs. Cooper is the teacher who kneels down to speak to her students face-to-face and awaits them with open arms and a soothing voice to calm their fears. She teaches the most impressionable kids. The littlest ones. The ones who will be offered a first impression of school and teachers. My daddy always taught me you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and the weight of a child’s first impression of school is created in Mrs. Cooper’s pre-K classroom. Wow, talk about a responsibility.
I don’t think she minds, though. She definitely doesn’t cower from the task. She speaks often about the importance she places on the simple tasks most of us take for granted. Every shoe she ties, every ponytail she tightens, every zipper she zips is a powerful first impression she takes very seriously. Along with letters and numbers, shapes and colors, Mrs. Cecille Cooper teaches important life skills, like holding a shirt sleeve while putting on a jacket. And every lesson, from the seemingly simple to the much more difficult, Mrs. Cooper teaches with warmth and kindness because she grasps the important role she plays for all educators.
So, she cultivates an environment in which her kids are showered with praise so much so that when they leave her classroom and move into the adventures of 12 more years of public school, they leave with an “I can” attitude. And that is the kind of attitude that creates self-motivated, inspired, capable young people.
Many years from now, when her students are sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and reading a newspaper column about influential teachers, I bet Mrs. Cooper’s face will be one of those faces remembered. Columbus certainly is lucky to have Mrs. Cooper and all the teachers like her.