After a recent luncheon for RISD’s new teachers, a young rookie teacher introduced herself to me and said: “Mr. Davis, my name is Callie Copenhaver, and I’m a new teacher at Pearce High School … and you were my father’s teacher!”
School is in session, so it’s time for a pop quiz: Can you name all of your teachers from kindergarten through high school graduation?
I posed the same question to our family’s recent graduates. For the most part, the names came quickly to Meredith and Oz (usually with an adjective or two per teacher). They then consulted a yearbook or student directory for the remaining few names.
The final tally? During our family’s 17 years in Richardson ISD, our two children were taught by more than 150 teachers. The list expanded as they remembered their 11 principals and the names of nurses, substitute teachers, librarians, counselors, custodians and other school employees who each played a role in the RISD experience. There are not enough thank-you notes or Paula’s chocolate chip cookies to properly thank each RISD employee who shaped not only our children’s lives, but our family’s life.
Expand this exercise to each family and marvel at the number of educators who have impacted students, families and our community. And I do not limit “educator” to classroom teachers. There are scores of school employees who invest themselves in the daily life of each school and teach children myriad life lessons — the cafeteria workers who always remember a student’s birthday, the nurses who tend to scrapes and aches, the counselors who provide a safe haven in times of turmoil, the secretaries whose ever-present smiles provide assurance that students are special. And the list goes on and on and on … including staff that students never see, but who provide essential services.
I recently received a very personal reminder about the special impact of classroom teachers on their students. As some of you know, I was a teacher for awhile … although it was a long while ago. How long ago was it? Well, after a recent luncheon for RISD’s new teachers, a young rookie teacher introduced herself to me and said: “Mr. Davis, my name is Callie Copenhaver and I’m a new teacher at Pearce High School … and you were my father’s teacher!”
Of course my initial thoughts were defensive … “Your father? My student? How old are you? How old am I?” My reactions quickly focused on a more appropriate and deeper emotion … humility. How and why would someone remember me, just one of many teachers in a young man’s schooling? But that is the impact teachers have on lives — not just a memory, but an “influence” and “impression” that is lasting, memorable and meaningful.
Oh yes, and how long ago was Chris Copenhaver in my class? The years were 1978-1980 when Paula and I were teaching at an international school in Algeria. By the way, Callie was very polite and did not say: “And Dad told me you actually had hair back then, and your hair was long.”
We are excited to welcome new teachers who have decided to share their unique gifts and talents with RISD and make a positive difference in our neighborhood schools. Veteran teachers have moved to RISD, and some have returned home after venturing to other school districts. Some are shifting from other careers and will share their varied experiences with our students. Others have just graduated from college and come to us with unbridled enthusiasm. We are particularly proud of the RISD graduates who have come home to teach, some in the schools where they were once students.
Regardless of your score on the pop quiz, I hope you enjoy memories of your favorite teachers and other school employees. You might even find their current address and drop them a note. Some of us “old” teachers are still around.
See you at school.