Did you hear about the guy who donated a building to honor his third grade teacher?
I just read an article in The Washington Post about Chris Shumway's incredible $800,000 gift to establish the Candace Leyton Innovation Learning Lab because his teacher changed his life.
Just what did this amazing teacher teach her third graders that they remember 30 years later? I'm sure she must have taught them how to multiply and spell. Former students didn't comment on the curriculum they learned, however. They talked about the character they developed. What stuck with them was how to be a problem solver and a risk taker. They remember Candace Leyton as a woman who brought creativity and a love of learning to the classroom. They remember her inspiration to develop skills as critical thinkers and innovators. They remember her as human--funny and tough at the same time. They remember the creative ways she made the curriculum relevant to her students' lives. They remember that she paid attention to each of them. One student was quoted saying, "She expected nothing but the best of efforts from everybody."
I know Chris Shumway isn't the only person who has fond memories of a special teacher. For me, it was my second grade teacher Miss Littman. Miss Littman, who encouraged my love of reading and introduced me to the worlds of authors like Beverly Cleary, Carolyn Haywood and Scott Corbett. Miss Littman, who encouraged my love of creative projects, stories, and poems. When I dressed as a witch for Halloween, Miss Littman colored one of my teeth black with a grease pencil to complete the effect. When I decided to wear my favorite Ronald McDonald dress on picture day, Miss Littman said I looked just perfect.
Once, around Christmas, Miss Littman told us her favorite carol was "Joy to the World" because her name was in the song. I went home and listened to the song over and over again, straining my ears for the lyric that included "Miss Littman." The next day I came in exasperated. She laughed and told me her name was Joy Littman. I even remember Miss Littman's dog Meesha, a Husky who came to visit the classroom occasionally.
Miss Littman became Mrs. Murray and soon had two children of her own. Eventually we lost touch. Every once in a while, I try to see if I can find her name on Facebook. I don't have a spare $800,000 to donate in her honor, but I sure would love to tell her that she made a difference in my life. In fact, she is one of the reasons I decided to become a teacher myself.
In September I will return to the classroom full time. I've just accepted a position to teach third grade at my school. I'm both nervous and excited. Yes, I will teach them how to multiply and how to spell. I hope what they remember will be so much more.