My momma did a good job teaching me right from wrong, and I’m sure I needed it because I was a doozy of a child. Her motto was always the Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do to you, and for the most part it has stuck.
Perhaps the kindergarten teacher in her made her the best life coach this mixed up, jokester could have asked for, so I am quite blessed to have had such a good momma. But when school begins in just a few days, our schools’ hallways will be flooded with children who don’t have as good a momma as I have. So what’s the next best thing?
Well, a teacher, of course.
Maybe a teacher like Mrs. Shamar Bedford at Eddy Middle. She would be a good one, for sure. Her career exudes the mantra of giving back and paying it forward, so all the eighth graders who walk into her science class next week are super lucky. They are about to spend 180 days with a teacher who has made her career focused on one word: love.
Her destiny was earmarked as a youngster growing up with a developmentally delayed brother who required weekly visits from a therapist. As the therapist worked with her brother to teach him vital skills, there Shamar was, right beside her, watching and helping. The therapist would then assign her teaching tasks, and Shamar would diligently work to help her brother reach the milestones of his challenged life.
What will make Mrs. Bedford a treasure for her students this year is a love for them that developed long before she ever laid eyes on them, long before they were born. What will make her as good as gold for the students about to walk into her classroom is a compassion and empathy that started with a struggling brother and a child’s easel, a visiting therapist and a yearning.
We’ll fast forward a few years to the tumultuous time of Shamar’s junior year in high school, when the struggles of life left her fear-filled and lost. Into the void steps the grace of a teacher, Mrs. Connelly. Softly the teacher breathed life into Shamar’s deflation and spoke hope into her desolation. Ask Shamar, and she’ll proclaim the love of Mrs. Connelly as the lone catalyst that kept her from derailing completely. Once again Mrs. Bedford’s tracks of destiny were being laid.
As most of us can attest, the journey to our destinies isn’t always a scenic drive on the Million Dollar Highway. It isn’t a cruise to Cozumel or a flight to Fiji. Like laying those first tracks into the wild wild West, the cost of progress is pretty steep at times. Wouldn’t you agree, though, that along the way, we meet people who are strategically placed to wipe our brow, lighten our load, and point us in the right direction?
Teachers became those mile-markers for Shamar. Mrs. Connelly certainly was. But Shamar wouldn’t meet the next track-layer until years later during the first week of her teaching career. Next in line to help steer Mrs. Bedford’s destiny was veteran educator, Rosa Patterson, who wasn’t just a coworker. She was a lifeline.
Mrs. Patterson became a true mentor to the young Mrs. Bedford, helping to create in her a career rooted in compassion.
No wonder Mrs. Bedford’s students are in for a treat. I mean, the kids who are about to enter her classroom are lucky. They will get an entire school year to soak up the love and direction of a teacher who truly understands the bountiful cycle of paying blessings forward. We’re thankful to have Mrs. Bedfords throughout our city, so rest easy. Tracks will be laid this school year!
I was told once that the best form of flattery is imitation. I think if you went into Mrs. Bedford’s middle school science classroom, you would probably catch a glimpse of Mrs. Connelly and Mrs. Patterson. Shamar, like us all, is not figuring out the journey all alone. So, perhaps we should slow down to recognize the people who have straightened our crooked ways and set us on the right path again.
Thanks Mrs. Bedford and Mrs. Connelly, Mrs. Patterson and momma. I’m walking a little lighter because of you all.
Sheryl Green is a secondary educator in Columbus, Georgia. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.