Power of a good teacher goes beyond the classroom

Bradner elementary, School District 34, Abbotsford

With yet another school year coming to an end, I’ve been thinking lately about the power of teachers. Some say they have no power, they’re just glorified babysitters. And to that, I shake my head in disbelief.

A teacher has the ability to positively impact children – to change their lives, really. They also have the ability to scar them. How can you not call that power?

Twelve years in the Abbotsford school district, I was lucky enough to have had four unforgettably incredible teachers, two in elementary school and two in high school.

This week, after 26 years – a full career – at the same school, Ms. Duma, my Grade 5 teacher at Bradner elementary, took a final teaching bow.

Today, I give her thanks.

It is because of Ms. Duma that my dear husband runs from the room every time I start singing. Not only was she my Grade 5 teacher, she also taught choir and handbells. And it didn’t matter how loud, or how out of tune I sang Winter Wonderland, she never shut me up, never banned me from the music room, never tried to dissuade my singing desires, not once. In fact, I am so sure her conductor signals were actually telling me to belt it out even louder.

And so Ms. Duma, I thank you for my love of singing Christina Aguilera’s I Am Beautiful at the top of my lungs. Deep down, my husband does too.

It is because of Ms. Duma, and a postcard from Peru, that my dreams of travel were first ignited. It was in my year that she and her husband adopted a baby from Peru. They left in May of that school year and while some teachers wouldn’t have looked back in their heightened excitement of starting a family, she did. Many times. We received regular updates of her travels, and that summer break, I received a postcard from her with an Inca woman dressed in traditional attire. It was in that postcard that she informed me she would be bringing home not one, but two babies. We all got postcards, and I still have mine and the embroidered pin of an Inca woman stored in my most precious treasures.

And so Ms. Duma, I thank you for starting my jet-setting dreams.

It is because of Ms. Duma that my standards for other teachers skyrocketed. Ms. Duma never forgot her students. Not when she was becoming a new mom in Peru, not when students transferred to new schools, and most definitely not when they were feeling alone and scared in a cold, sterile hospital bed at B.C. Children’s Hospital. That year, just one year post-diabetes diagnosis and the start of my downward spiral of disease denial, I spent a lot of time in the hospital. But there was always a card, a giant handmade card, the size of a poster board folded in half, wishing me better with signatures and funny comments and drawings from the entire class – at the prompting of my dear teacher.

And so Ms. Duma, I thank you for those nights when I so desperately needed comfort, of being able to find those warm, fuzzy feelings every time I opened those cards.

It’s been 23 years since I was in Ms. Duma’s class, and thanks to Facebook, to this day, she continues to make me feel like I am one of the most special, talented, beautiful people on this Earth.

That is the power of an amazing teacher. That is what every classroom needs.

kbartel@theprogress.com

twitter.com/schoolscribe33

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