I have written about my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Christy, several times now as he was the inspiration for Fish in a Tree. However, there were other teachers who made a difference as well. Today, I’m thinking of two of them: high school algebra teacher, Carol Masonis, and high school English teacher, Patricia Yosha.
I was an average student. Looking back on it I could’ve done better, but to be perfectly honest I had bigger issues on my mind than school. I was not a student that stood out a whole lot and I suppose I wanted it that way. As a freshman, I had a terrible math teacher who’d get through a problem on the board only to find that her answer didn’t match the book. She was also unkind. I did not do well that year.
On the first day of 10th grade, however, Mrs. Masonis commanded the room. She walked swinging a pointer and playfully slapped our desks to get our attention. She gave us a rundown of the rules including, “If you’re going to chew gum in my class you better have enough for everyone in the class and double for me.” The other thing about her is that she knew her material very well. Math just made sense when she taught it. She obviously loved her subject matter and she obviously loved us as well.
So, there was this one morning when she handed back our quizzes. I had received a 100%. I remember lingering in my seat for a bit longer than my classmates at the end of class, staring at the number. When I finally did get up to leave, she called me over. She took the quiz from my hand, held it up in front of my face, looked me in the eye, and said, “You know something? You’re very good at math.”
I think I half smiled and I think I may have mumbled thanks. But on the inside, things churned and I wondered if she was right. I started doing extra homework and studying hard for every math quiz and test. From that day forward, I never received anything less than 100% in math.
The following year, Mrs. Yosha, my English teacher called me up to her desk, held up a paper I had written, looked me in the eye, and said, “You know something? You can really write.” What do you think the chances are that these two were friends? It led to a similar result. I did not leave English with a 100% average but my grades did increase dramatically.
So, maybe I’m overly open to suggestions? :-). I think in both cases, it was the intensity and the brevity of their messages. People who know me well wouldn’t believe it, but I was pretty quiet in high school. However, these teachers both gave me a goal and reaching that goal helped me view myself in a better light. Those improved grades got me into the University of Connecticut which led to other big changes. Great changes.
When I sat down to write one for the Murphys and it was time to create Mr. Ruben, the very first thing I ever gave him was a pointer to swing that he would use to playfully slap the desks. Although his gender and appearance are different, both his command of the classroom and that pointer came from 10th grade algebra and Carol Masonis who appears in the acknowledgements of Fish in a Tree because she was one of the very best teachers I’ve ever had.
She has been the subject of much conversation at high school reunions. I knew in high school that she was special, but it wasn’t until the reunions when I heard stories of things she’d done for other kids that really blew me away. She is one of those teachers that made a difference. A huge difference. Many of us out in the world are still grateful to have been her students.
Happy Teacher Appreciation—you are most definitely appreciated. I think teachers rarely understand the impact they can truly have. Perception changers. Life changers. World changers.
Thank you all! I do hope that you have enjoyed this week of celebrating YOU! This is a much-deserved celebration!
I’ll leave you with this…I recently heard, “If you are married to a teacher, raise your glass. If you are not married to a teacher, raise your standards.”
In the spirit of awesome teacher who swing pointers like Mr. Ruben from ONE FOR THE MURPHYS, I am offering:
- 5 signed paperback copies of ONE FOR THE MURPHYS which you can add to your library, give to kids, or use for a book club.
- 1 signed copy of FISH IN A TREE
- 30 bookmarks for your students
Please enter by leaving a comment below with your contact info (twitter handle or e-mail) and/or tweet/retweet with the hashtag #LMHmath . This will help me find your entry. :-)
Winner will be chosen on Monday, May 11th. Please be able to provide a school mailing address, your grade level, and the number of students that you have.