“Gratitude is one of the most important human virtues and one of the most common human deficiencies. Gratitude does not develop without effort.” – Dieter Uchtdorf
How often do we cherish the moment?
Do we tell people how much they mean to us? Throughout my school career I enjoyed several caring and wonderful teachers. I also had my fair share of teachers that I simply didn’t connect with. Looking back one teacher made an impact with me as a student & teacher. As a fifth grade student I was placed in the room of Mrs. Janice Wetters. I had several friends in the room and at that time fifth grade was part of the Middle School.
It was a Whole New World.
When I think back to my fifth grade year several memories pop into my head. It was the first time in my life I held a girl’s hand! I learned how to divide triple-digit numbers. I really got excited about science, and I found a true appreciation for consistency. As I look back what I remember the most about fifth grade is that Mrs. Wetters was predictable, consistent and reliable. I never remember her missing a day of school. I always knew that she would treat everyone the same, and each school day was filled with routine and procedure. In the moment I likely thought fifth grade was boring, but thinking back I appreciate what my teacher put in place.
My memories of fifth grade will be forever positive. But isn’t that how it always works? We don’t truly appreciate what we have until time has passed. Years later I landed my first teaching job. It was exciting and odd at the same time. The excitement came from actually having my own classroom. It was truly a dream come true. The oddness was that I was teaching in the district that I attended as a student. The story doesn’t end there…my mentor teacher was Mrs. Janice Wetters.
What are the odds?
I remember thinking multiple times that year that some of my colleagues treated me as a professional and others seemed to still think of me as a student. Those early years I often felt as though I needed to prove myself. I think Janice recognized this. From time to time she would wander across the hall and check in on me. We would talk curriculum and she would ask me about things I was doing in my classroom. Her feedback was always positive, and she often times asked for my assistance. I now know what she was up to. Janice was encouraging me through our interactions. She was allowing me to share. Over time our conversations began to shift my thinking from, “Do I belong?” to “I do belong.” For 7+ years I taught with Janice. I remember trying to get her to use technology. I remember laughing at her when she started a fire in her room. I remember her constant support and ability to keep our entire team on track. Janice was always the calm, consistent voice of reason. After she retired I began to miss Janice more than I ever thought I would. What I missed was the consistency and reliability. Whether it was me in fifth grade as a student or a teacher you knew exactly what you were getting with her.
Years passed and I got word that Janice was sick. Last year she passed away and I still remember seeing her in the weeks leading up to her passing. We bumped into each other outside the bank. She smiled and patted me on the arm. She was embarrassed that I was seeing her with a bandanna on her head. She talked about beating the disease and working with teachers in Jackson County on the new science standards. Janice didn’t want the focus to be on her, it was always about others. That was the last time I saw Janice alive. At no point did I ever think she wasn’t going to beat the disease. Janice was larger than life. She was a constant, a reliable friend and colleague. Her reach will last for years.
The world has one less amazing teacher, but that doesn’t mean we won’t remember what she taught us. My appreciation will last forever. We don’t teach for money, we don’t teach for the accolades, we don’t teach for the pats on the back. We teach because we have a passion for kids and a desire to make the world a better place. Mrs. Janice Wetters made an impact on me that will last the rest of my life. I hope she looks down from Heaven and knows that I’m grateful. This week is Teacher Appreciation Week, I encourage you to show gratitude towards someone that has helped shape you as a person and as an educator.