The most influential and rewarding educational experience of my childhood followed an extremely tumultuous time in my life. When I was in the fourth grade, my parents decided to make the painful decision to separate.
While I didn’t know it at the time, as I look back, I believe that my less than stellar performance in the classroom was due in large part to being on an emotional roller coaster during that period. And although I enjoyed being at school with friends, I didn’t like being in the classroom because I had trouble concentrating, and having a teacher who was non-nurturing and a strict disciplinarian, didn’t help. He was stoic, serious, and left no time for levity in the classroom. What I remember most about him is that he focused much of his attention on students who performed well — day in and day out. Good students certainly deserved praise, but my teacher went over the top, leaving the rest of us feeling inadequate.
During fifth grade, I had a wonderful, nurturing, and thoughtful teacher. As the effects of my parents’ divorce dissipated, I was beginning to rebound – both emotionally, and in the classroom.
Then came sixth grade. In some sense, it was a new beginning. I went to live with my dad full time, AND I transferred back to a school that I had attended during kindergarten, first- and second-grades: Holly Oak Elementary School. I reacquainted myself with old friends, and I was excited and really happy again.
What I didn’t expect was that I would get a teacher whose impact still resonates – in many ways — with me today. Miss Kidd – a short and fit redhead – was a firecracker! She was a phenomenal motivator, whose ability to connect with students was unparalleled. Until that point, I had never believed that I had the potential to be an honor roll student. She changed that. Miss Kidd made me believe that I could and would be an honor roll student if I put my trust in her. Her optimism and energy was impossible to ignore, and I quickly bought into believing that I could succeed.
Some of the year’s highlights: 3rd place in the school science fair, 1st place in school art show, and three quarter honor rolls. (If it weren’t for an illness that kept me out of school for three weeks during the last quarter of school, I would have made honor roll all four quarters. But three out of four wasn’t bad.)
Miss Kidd believed in incentives. Every student, who missed fewer than three homework assignments per quarter, got to attend an end-of-the-quarter party. I still remember singing the heck out of the Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.” at the last party of the year. At our request, she played the hit song over and over and over again.
Some of the year’s low moments: I was suspended for taking a pencil from another teacher’s desk, and I was kicked off the 6th grade trip to Great America for visiting the principal one too many times.
While I had frequent stumbles, I left elementary school feeling empowered. Not only had Miss Kidd changed my academic path, she changed the way I looked at life and health. Because she was an avid runner (a marathoner, in fact), she created a volunteer on-campus after-school running program. About four other students and I participated, and it was the beginning of my affinity for running. I’ve been doing it ever since.
Miss Kidd taught me how to chase success – figuratively and physically, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Happy National Teacher’s Day to the educators who make a difference!by