30 Days of Thanks: A life filled with teachers

30 Days of Thanks: TeachersI went through the gauntlet of third grade 18 years ago, but have yet to escape the happenings of a third grade classroom.

See, I’ve been lucky enough to be blessed with a mother, Deb, who has spent her entire adult life molding the lives of third graders (not to mention my grandma and several aunts and uncles who also spent their working lives in classrooms).

Day in and day out, through good days and bad, my mom heads into her classroom with a purpose. She views each day as an opportunity to leave a mark on a young mind. That’s something she won’t allow herself to take for granted because she knows how powerful her job is and can be.

That’s how she’s operated for well over 30 years.

But those who didn’t see her outside of the classroom setting didn’t know her normal day of teaching wasn’t over when she left the building each day. Not even close.

When she got home, even after the worst days, she spent time teaching me and my younger sister. There were nights around the kitchen table when my sister and I would work on homework while my mom graded papers or updated lesson plans. If we had questions, guess who was always there with an answer?

One of the coolest times of my life was when my reading teacher was my mom. I spent 45 minutes in her classroom each day. What I remember most poignantly was how she treated me exactly as she treated the other 20-25 kids in the class.

I was at school to learn. When I was home I could be the teacher’s pet.

I’ve always been grateful for those 45 minutes in her classroom. Seeing my mom do what she loves and do it well molded the way I approached school for the rest of my academic career.

She taught me discipline, respect and compassion. She taught me never to give up on something. She taught me I had what it takes to do whatever I wanted to in life, and that I should never settle for anything less – all things I carry forward to this day.

When I found out I was rejected from the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a senior in high school, I felt entirely dejected. Getting that note from the only school I ever wanted to attend could have taken a nasty toll on my confidence.

But without missing a beat, my mom was there to pick me up. She was there to teach me nothing comes easy in life, but everything is possible if you work hard and stay smart. After one year at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, I wound up at UW-Madison, where I graduated with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication in 2009.

Guess who I said thanks to immediately after the ceremony was over?  

What’s also neat is I’m soon to be married to a first-grade teacher, who I’ve already seen impact the lives of many – both educationally and socially – in her two-and-a-half years in a classroom. Though we don’t have any children, I know for a fact there will be plenty of nights around the kitchen table where we all work on homework and educate one another, should that time come.

For that, I’m thankful the most influential teachers in my life were – and continue to be – at my disposal 24/7.

What teachers had the most affect on your life? 

by Tom Lea on Mon, Nov 25 2013 10:55 am
Posted by Tom Lea on Mon, Nov 25 2013 10:55 amTom Lea is a strategic communications writer for American Family Insurance, who also spent seven years covering Wisconsin football and basketball.


Alicia Barkus said on Nov 26, 2013
I myself am a teacher. I wonder if i could thank myself and my students I covered over the years. I also want to thank my teachers who over the years have taught me well. Thanks!
Miri said on Nov 13, 2013
What a beautiful tribute to your mom and to teachers everywhere. Thanks for sharing your story.
Tammy echols said on Nov 26, 2013
My favorite teacher was Miss Wise in the third grade. She had away with making everything was going to be alright when a classmate came down with leukemia. Our days were filled with so much hope and promise.
myrlene Finch said on Nov 26, 2013
Unfortunately, at my age all my teachers are deceased. The teachers who made the greatest impact on my life were my vocal teacher, and my major professors in Office Administration and Foodd and Nutrition...
darla moxley said on Nov 26, 2013
By far the teacher that had the most impact on my life was Richard "Butch" Dufault. He was the band director in my high school. No matter how big or small the task was in band, it always had a life lesson to be learned. Mr Dufault passed away this past year but I think he knew how much he meant to so many of his students over the years.
Deb said on Nov 14, 2013
This article was written by my son, Tom Lea. The blog is from American Family. Thank you, Tom!

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