Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"Cruising the Corridor: Outstanding Teacher"

Here is a sneak peek into the upcoming issue of Robious Corridor Monthly.  The theme focuses on the outstanding student/athletes who live amongst us.  In my column "Cruising the Corridor," I decided to focus on the outstanding teachers and coaches who help kids like these reach their potential.  Of course, I knew firsthand of an absolutely outstanding first-grade teacher, Miss Laura Clark of Bettie Weaver... 

"Cruising the Corridor: Outstanding Teacher"

As you know, this issue is dedicated to the outstanding student-athletes who live along our Corridor. They deserve the praise and have earned every bit for their impressive accomplishments. It makes me realize, though, it really does take a “team” to help these kids on their journey to reach their potential.

In addition to support from their families, many educators and coaches along the way made significant contributions to the kids’ development. They taught them well, nurturing their natural talents. They also trained them, pushed them, encouraged them, and challenged them. Thanks to these dedicated teachers, these kids and so many others are on the path to their own individual success stories. Kudos to them all!

Our son Sam just finished up first grade at Bettie Weaver with Miss Clark, a phenomenal teacher. She is consistently enthusiastic, energetic, and encouraging, yet patient, organized, and firmly in control. In the course of a year, Sam went from barely being able to read to reading chapter books. (Getting him to actually do it is another story, though.)

We first met Miss Clark on Meet-the-Teacher Day before school started. With a big smile on her face, she greeted each child with a bear hug like a long lost friend. As is expected, the room was jam-packed with kids. I soon realized that many were last year’s students who wanted to see her after a long summer. How’s that for a ringing endorsement?

After the first day of school, Sam galloped off the bus announcing, “First grade is way better than kindergarten!”

“How is Miss Clark?” I asked.

“GREAT!” he responded. His response never changed, no matter whether he had a rough day at school or not.

Prior to this year, I had never thought about the importance of first grade in the context of a child’s overall education. Miss Clark explained it so well on Back-to-School Night as we parents sat in those teeny chairs hoping they wouldn’t collapse under our adult weight: “First grade is when kids learn to read. After that they read to learn.”

When you stop and think about it, first grade is the probably most important year of all. Without the ability to read, kids can’t learn much else. In the hustle-bustle of our everyday lives, it’s easy to take for granted the high caliber of instruction at Weaver and Robious Elementary. We are so incredibly fortunate to live where we live. Ninety-nine percent of the world would love to trade places with us.

Here is one of my favorite stories about Miss Clark, so representative of her. This year Valentine’s Day fell on a Thursday before a long weekend. Sam came down with strep throat that day, so we dropped off his valentines at school. He was feeling a little sad about missing the big exchange, but an afternoon spent watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made it all better. Don’t ask me why because I don’t know why.

In the late afternoon I noticed someone dressed in red coming up the front walkway. Then there was a knock on the door. When I opened the door, there stood MISS CLARK! I nearly fell over! Well, she is a celebrity in our house after all, so you can’t blame me! Lo and behold, she had looked up our address and come to drop off Sam’s valentines and treats so he wouldn’t feel left out. And of course she wanted to tell him how much the class missed him. That act of sheer kindness brought tears to my eyes – and still does.

Another wonderful example of Miss Clark’s dedication took place in the wake of the Newtown murders of 20 first graders and six administrators before Christmas. We all felt such horror deep in our souls. How could you not? That following Monday morning everyone felt a bit queasy sending their kids back to school. Just as our kids were getting on the bus, Miss Clark sent this email to parents: (Get your hanky ready!)

Good morning, first grade parents.

As you’re going through your Monday morning routine, getting ready to return to school, I know we all share a heavy heart, reflecting on Friday’s tragedy in Connecticut.

I am still heartbroken thinking about those 20 innocent first graders, and the teachers who died trying to protect them. I cannot begin to imagine the pain and loss that their families and community are experiencing.

As the details continue to unfold, and we learn more about the lives of those who were lost, I continue to find beauty and strength in the love that binds us together, especially as educators and parents.

Please let me know if I can help in any way during these next four days as we approach the holidays, and please know that you and your families are in my thoughts as I open the doors to my classroom this morning.

As the students excitedly pile into the classroom this morning, I’m sure we will be sharing smiles, hugs and stories about the weekend. If the events of Sandy Hook should be mentioned, I will address it with my best grace and honesty. I will do my best to continue to foster a safe and loving environment…which is my most important task as your child’s educator.

With love,

Laura Clark
First Grade Teacher
Bettie Weaver Elementary School

See! I told you to have a hanky ready!

There are so many other dedicated “Miss Clarks” lining our Corridor. To all of you teachers and coaches, thank you for all you do! Despite some discouraging days, what you do makes a difference, a big difference. You mold young minds and bodies. You change lives for the better. You polish the kids until they shine in the spotlight, while you stay in the shadows. Your tireless contributions make the Robious Corridor a better place to live, work, and go to school.


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