What Teachers Leave Behind

     As the school year nears to an end, parents get excited about their children coming home. At the same time, the parents are fearful of what condition their home will be in, once they return home in the evenings. Not to mention, the complaints of loud noise, and screaming children running through the yards from the neighbors. The children are doing all they can do to have fun. The kids have been waiting for “school to get out”. They will still see their friends during the summer. When school resumes, it will be just like “old times” with the same friends and same teachers, or maybe not?

     Children do not realize that sometimes, teachers do not come back. I know, as a former teacher, I had three kids in particular who swore to me they could not write a rhyming poem. Two of them wrote the most sarcastic and rude poems toward me. Another teacher read them and told me she would have those boys written up. I simply reminded her I asked the boys for a rhyming poem. I got exactly what I asked for. If the poems would have been vulgar or contained profanity, that is something else. The poems didn’t, though. The writer read their poem, and I do not know who laughed more, him or me.

     Although, I did have one student who found out my last day was approaching three weeks prior to the end of school. I did not want to tell the students as I had all senior classes, and testing was approaching. He wrote his poem, but refused to read it. He gave it to me the day before I left. It included all of the elements, and it expressed his gratitude, and his struggle with English, until I became his teacher. I was the only teacher he had ever had that would sit in a desk beside you, as if you I were a student. He finished his poem restating how just when he had finally began to understand, I was leaving. I tried to get him to understand that it was his willingness to learn that made him “know English now”.

     I told him about one of my favorite children’s book, “Thank You, Mr. Falker,” written by Patricia Polacco. The book was written about her own awful experience of being made fun of and being bullied because she could not read. Finally when she was in 7th grade or somewhere around there, she found herself in a class with a brand new teacher named Mr. Falker who taught her to read for the first time in her life. I never knew how true that could be myself until I entered high school Algebra I.  I had struggled through 7th and 8th grade Math, all because of Algebra.

     I walked into the door of Algebra I as David Hillman held the door greeting the students. I sat taking notes as he explained the problems on the board. After I failed my first test, Mr. Hillman asked me if I had trouble keeping up. I lied and told him I did not study. I did not want him to think there was something wrong with me. I stayed up late at night, but my parents didn’t remember how to do Algebra and my sister was one of his best students. Finally, I asked Sheri, my sister, how she did so well in Math? She told me if I had Mr. Hillman, I would be fine. Just ask him if I had a problem.

     The next day when class dismissed, I told Mr. Hillman, my problems, my fib, my fears, and what I was told. Mr. Hillman did not jump in a phone booth and come out wearing a red cape, but he may as well. Today, Math is not a subject I have problems with. I contribute it all to Mr. David Hillman from Caldwell Parish High School.

     I wanted to write this on what teachers leave behind, because as our kids progress to the next level in school and go on to graduate, we never see it. I am not saying you do not have smart kids. I’m saying, as in my situation, when it comes to Math, Mr. Hillman and I made a great team, and I would not have done it without him. My daughter Jesse would not have made it without him. From the endless additions of thanks and remembrances from classes and individuals as Mr. Hillman announced his retirement for the second time; after 42 years of teaching this man has definitely given all of himself to his job. He did not do it because he wanted riches. All teachers know this is not a profession for that. You teach because you want to. You teach because you love kids, and the sound of their laughter. You teach because of the joy you see on student’s face, when he or she has realized their dilemma has been conquered. You teach for what you leave behind. Thank you Mr. Hillman for what you left behind, a legacy of professionalism, education and memories.

        Published May 10, 2012, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench

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