Call me the perpetual student, but back to school is one of my favorite and most exciting times of the year. As a child, I could hardly sleep the night before school, filled with anticipation for the school year ahead. I still love buying planners and it’s difficult for me to pass up the school supply displays at stores. Who doesn’t want a fresh, blank notebook or a box of new crayons? My son starts his second year of preschool this fall, and after a summer that was highlighted by trips to the Great Lakes and days floating down the North Fork, he’s also looking forward to seeing his classmates and his teachers.
For me, fall is a season of newness and hope, an opportunity for discovery and learning. While I may not be in school anymore, much to my dismay, I still view back to school as the fresh slate. There’s this sense that we can learn something new, even without a teacher’s lesson. I think these impressions have long stayed with me because of the teachers I’ve had throughout my life.
In third grade, it was Mrs. Elkie, brimming with enthusiasm. She was sensitive to the needs of her students, including a bully situation in which she quickly addressed and made all of us understand the meaning of compassion and empathy. Mrs. Ruhs, my high school English teacher, may be surprised that I’m writing about her, all these years later as we steadily clashed for four straight years. But her ability to challenge my narrow way of thinking shaped me into the person I am today. She also lit a fire in me when she expressed doubts about my chances getting into my top choice for college. I was upset, but upon reflection I think she was aware of how to motivate me, ensuring that I wouldn’t get lazy during my senior year. It was my middle school science teacher, Mrs. Leach, who taught me the value of history, self-reflection, and goal planning. In eighth grade, she had each of us create our own personal time capsule that she later gave to us on graduation day. We could fill the box with whatever items we chose, and in addition to cutting out news headlines and magazine covers, I wrote about what was happening in my life during that time, future plans, and who I hoped to be by year 2000. I also recorded a message for my future self, most of it absolutely hilarious, but the message was that our own stories are important and worth preserving.
This is but a quick snapshot of the many teachers who worked so hard, cared so much, and provided for me that I wish I had more space to name them all. I know that my son, as he continues in his education, will be so fortunate to interact with many dedicated, talented, and smart teachers that he too will come to understand that we grow and develop best under the kind and measured tutelage of his teachers.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.