Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Thank a Teacher

It's National Teachers Day, the first Tuesday during the first full week of May. If you're reading blogs, books, or (gasp!) any print media, you have your teachers to thank.

We all remember our favorite teachers. In grade school, Sr. Mary Humbeline, second grade, was my favorite. She was a nun who could laugh, sing, and have fun. She would actually run in the schoolyard while playing with the kids. A fun nun on the run--definitely memorable.

In high school, Mr. Richard Conley, English teacher, stands out in memory. Mr. Conley had an intense, dramatic teaching style. He was very straightforward, openly chastising slackers and enthusiastically praising achievers. Mr. Conley always insisted, both in class and privately, that I should become a writer. Wherever he is, I hope he's happy with my progress.

In college, Professor Ray Berner was without equal. He taught 17th and 18th Century Literature and, as an English major, I was required to take both courses. I was dreading the slogs through Pope, Milton and Donne. But Mr. Berner had an easy-going, conversational teaching style, laced with wry humor, that made those often dry tomes and poems come alive with modern interest. I vividly remember long passages of his informal lectures, and I know I learned the most in his classes.

Mr. Berner (later on, Dr. Berner) died about ten years ago. He was barely in his sixties, a lifelong bachelor, dedicated fully to his students and his love of classical literature. He had lived a quiet, uneventful life of teaching in that tiny university in the Pennsylvania hills, as though understanding and accepting that "the paths of glory lead but to the grave." Over 30 years later, I remember him as my most outstanding teacher, and I know from reminiscing with college classmates that I am not alone.

Thank you to all the dedicated teachers who work to advance knowledge in our young people. It's good work that grows more valuable with the passing years.