Saturday, July 19, 2008

Teacher of the Year

For the 27th time, I was nominated for Teacher of the Year at my school. [Note: I didn't get nominated my first year because I was SO BAD!]

For the 27th time, I did not win.

I am little tired of you can imagine.

But I am also tired of not reading some names next to that title that I feel really deserve it.

So with your kind permission, I am going to award the Plunkett Version of Teacher of the Year to the following teachers:

My mother, Patricia Plunkett - my mom taught for over forty years in Colorado, Texas, and Tennessee. She taught every grade level from nursery school to graduate school. She worked in many different schools, with many different types of kids, and in many different areas. In all of them, she was the coolest teacher I ever saw. When I was a kid and attended the same elementary school where she taught, I noticed that the kids always wanted to be in her class; I couldn't figure it out because she was pretty tough. What I realized later was that she loved them unconditionally. Good quality for a teacher to have. Mom, you are a Teacher of the Year and I am proud of you.

My father, Bob Plunkett - my dad was the first computer teacher in the state of Texas...and he did this in 1965! He also taught business classes, coached wrestling and boxing, and even served as a referee. My dad was even stricter than my mother, but the kids loved him. Whenever they got in trouble - any type of trouble - they came to him for help. And he always helped them. He got out of teaching around 1968, and later he told me that not a September went by that he didn't "miss the ringing of the school bell." Dad, you are a Teacher of the Year, and I am proud of you.

Mary Matern, my fifth grade teacher - This was the toughest teacher I EVER saw, and she was my fifth grade teacher. On the first day of school, when I walked into her classroom, two things caught my attention: 1) the room was full of kids like me - smart but a little unfocused and way too talkative, and 2) she was in charge. She was fierce and she taught with a small wooden paddle in her hand. She wore out the side of her wooden desk tapping for our attention (and you better not be talking when she tapped the third time!). She taught us everything all by herself. She was endlessly cheerful and very hardworking. But her most amazing skill was the way she stayed cool even in a very warm room. She wore long sleeve dresses winter and summer. Whenever we got too wiggly, she would say, "okay, young people, let's go run a 600." This meant we had to run out of the room, head for the playground, run once around the track (and you better run, not walk) and then head back to her. She didn't care if it was hot, cold, wet, or dry - we ran! When the last day of school rolled around, all of us sat at our desks crying that we had to say goodbye to her. I never thanked her for all she did for me. She died of cancer a long time ago, and my prayer is that she watches me now and is proud of me. Mrs. Matern, you were the best elementary school teacher I ever had, you are a Teacher of the Year, and I am proud of you.

Helen Gurley, my 11th grade Trigonometry teacher - I was in high school in Hixson, Tennessee. The woman who started the year teaching us was really struggling to control the class, stay focused, and teach us anything. Finally, somebody complained and she was gone. The very next day this tiny dynamo of a woman appeared in our was Mrs. Gurley. What a teacher! She had a very unusual voice, but there was nothing unusual about her style. She banged on the board to get our attention, taught clearly and concisely, and gave killer quizzes and tests. Funny thing...she really knew how to teach math. We found ourselves listening, learning, and even behaving. I got a C in that class, but I would have failed it without her. She told us that all of our bad grades that the other teacher gave us would have to stay; we would just have to work hard to bring it up. That was part of the reason I got a C, but it took me a while to believe in what she was doing. It was my biggest mistake in her class! She just retired last year, and I told my sister who still lives in Hixson to find her and tell her how much I appreciated what she did. So Mrs. Gurley, if you find this, you are a Teacher of the Year, and I am proud of you.

I am sure there are others. I will add them as I think of them. But these four deserve to stand alone in this article for a while. Not sure any of them ever got any award or any prize or any notice for the job they did teaching. Believe me...they all deserved whatever award we could think of. They made a difference in my own life, and I love and admire them all.

p.s. (February 3, 2009) - Wouldn't you know it! This year I had two former students nominate me for the Crystal Award! This is an award given to a handful of teachers who are nominated by their students. My teaching partner coordinated the project while I was gone for three days to district meetings! Now I will receive a Crystal Apple Award at a banquet on March 6th. There will also be an article in the Houston Chronicle about all this. What a thrill! And in my last semester of teaching! Thank you, everyone!

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