Saturday, January 8, 2011

To My Mom, As She Retires

My mom retired yesterday after nearly four decades as a teacher. This is my letter to her:

Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a teacher, just like you, mom.

I remember playing school with dolls and friends, passing out worksheets and writing on a chalkboard. I would mimic all of the things I had seen you do in your real-life classroom.

You have taught school for as long as I can remember. I always loved going with you to school. In those early summers, when you were teaching in Thornton, in those non-air-conditioned classrooms, I would get a cold bottle of grape pop in the vending machine and help you cut out construction paper alphabet letters for your bulletin board. I loved watching you help boys and girls learn to read and write and add and subtract. Your students loved and respected you. Your classrooms were colorful and interactive and always well organized.

I remember your first days at Glenwood School. As I rode onto the campus for my first visit, I was impressed by the tall trees and stately brick buildings. The boys – only boys at that time – wore neckties. In those years, before the updates the school enjoys today, the buildings seemed old and musty.

You were assigned to teach special education students in a big back room with high ceilings and heavy rolled up window shades. There was a large piano sitting in the middle and vinyl upholstered furniture. I remember that the room had a lot of space, but seemed old-fashioned. We could hear the band playing in the classroom below us.

You were not intimidated by the surroundings. Immediately you set to work cleaning out the cobwebs and covering old tables with fresh contact paper. You raised the dark shades and let the light stream into the room. Up went colorful posters and students were welcomed with individual folders complete with their schedules and assignments.You were the Mary Poppins of learning – and with one touch the atmosphere was transformed.

Your classroom was filled with fun and learning. At any one time you could have a dozen students on individually assigned tracks of progress. The students loved to come to your classroom. They loved tracking their own accomplishments and earning rewards for top effort. You ran a tight ship. Students did not goof around in your classrooms – yet they always seemed to have fun. You knew how to discipline them and still make them feel welcome.

You loved to plan special parties. Many times you took groups of boys out for lunch. Sometimes you brought lunch in. I remember the make your own French crepe parties and an Italian party – where two of the Glenwood boys treated us to their mom’s homemade pasta.

Our whole family was often on the campus enjoying Flag Day and the military processions. We traveled through the north woods up to Camp Glenwood – and many of the members of the Glenwood faculty have seemed like members of our family.

I know you will miss this wonderful school and the memories you have of both employees and students. Glenwood has been a part of your life and of my life.

I am proud of you. You are, for me, the true example of a teacher, someone with boundless love, creativity and energy. You are someone who loves students and has the ability to make them want to learn. Your impact on their lives certainly has continued to this day.

Congratulations Mom! I know it is hard for you to retire – but you have worked long and hard and deserve this time of relaxation. You have set an amazing example for all of us in this profession.
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