What do crocheted slippers and Tom Selleck have in common? The answer is an amazing teacher! By: Jennifer Mitchell
I grew up in Independence, Missouri (the hometown of Harry S Truman). I attended school K-12 in the Independence School District, of which I have now worked for since the age of eighteen. Though I had a fondness for several of my teachers throughout my educational journey, my sixth grade teacher stands out in my mind the most. At that time sixth grade was still part of the elementary school, currently in our district 6th grade is now considered middle school though. I feel like sixth grade can be a pivotal year, you feel like you are getting older and more mature, but you are still awkward and need to be a kid. That year being an 80’s kid we had three Jennifer’s in that class. My nickname became Jenni (referred to as Jenni with an i) that is the only time in life I have gone by Jenni and somehow it worked and was endearing. My sixth grade teacher was that fine mix between showing students how much she cared about them, and being able to lay down the law when necessary.
To paint a picture of this marvelous teacher you first have to visualize crocheted slippers, once her feet started to hurt during the day those were a staple she switched to. As well as multiple posters, calendars and photos of Tom Selleck as Magnum P.I. She was probably in her late 20’s early 30’s at that time, was single, and not afraid to open her teacher’s cabinet letting all of us in on her clear obsession of Tom. At that point she became a relatable person to all of us, she wasn’t just a teacher, she was a person too. Back in the 80’s most teachers didn’t work very hard at letting students know they were human. :)
Beyond being able to connect with her students, she brought to life some magical literature. I was introduced to A Secret Garden, A Little Princess, From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and other great novels that sparked great discussion. Through these books, I gained a love of different genres. It was also fun to talk with her about books I was reading at home, and make connections. As a student I felt like she really was interested in me, and what I was sharing. I think that is what most people remember about teachers they are fond of, how they made us feel, and if we were valued. It also never hurt that on Fridays when we passed papers back from the week she would give us round sour candies. I am pretty sure they weren’t all that tasty, but we lived for the sound of the plastic bag being cut open so they could be handed out.
I strive to be “that” teacher for my own students. I am there to provide students with an education, but I also want to make learning fun, and give them memories. Sometimes it is the little things that resonate with students, things teachers have no idea they will remember for years to come.