To my teachers

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Forever and ever I’ve been wanting to contact my teachers growing up – but I haven’t. Three things recently made me remember that: 1) a student mentioned that she is currently writing letters to her teachers (she just graduated grade 8 in June – She is  20 years ahead of me), 2) my friend told me about reconnecting with a past teacher at Lakeside Park, and 3) visiting Colasanti’s.

I picture myself 20 years in the future having past students contacting me to thank me for inspiring them or teaching them something important or even just sharing with me where they’ve gone in their lives – and although it makes me feel old, it would make me tickled. The kids who were in grade 8 the year I started teaching have graduated university and are off into adulthood. Unreal. I may or may not have creeped some of them on FB.

I decided to write a public letter to a handful of my elementary teachers of the past who I think about with fondness- with the hopes that they may be directed here, or stumble upon it. Most people remember their high school teachers having the most impact (and I had some absolute gems – Mr. Gombai (art), Mlle Gaudette (french immersion), Mr. Buchanan (music) who grew my confidence, made me laugh regularly and pulled my artistic talent in all directions. My math and science teachers also made me very prepared for University.), but because I teach elementary school, I find that I think a lot more about my KPS teachers in my teaching life.

I now realize how much effort and love goes in to each classroom – and probably didn’t give them enough credit at the time. Some teachers are magnetic, enthusiastic and make learning fun, safe and welcoming. Not all were like this, but I was blessed to have many great teachers growing up – perhaps they inspired me to become one myself.

Mlle Pugliese – Kdgn + grade 1: Mlle directed all of the school musicals, and even though I never got cast any “higher” than chorus I always tried out. I memorized the songs, longed to be a set designer and dance. I was mostly too shy and probably couldn’t handle it at the time. These days, elementary musical theater is my thing – my most favourite of extra curriculars. I think Mlle had something to do with this. When I think of Mlle, I also think of making dioramas at trapezoid tables, dipping cookies in milk and how she taught my parents to speak French. Mlle is currently a Professor of Dramatic Arts at UWindsor. Très cool.

Mlle Costa – 2e année: Mlle was the most artistic teacher I ever had. She spent her lunch recesses drawing epic chalk art to illustrate our printing practice. She had trendy clothes and long painted fingernails and took us to her mom’s house for an awesome field trip. She always sang and performed at school talent shows. I hope that I inspire my students artistically as much as she did. I try to infuse as much art as I can, going out of my way to bring creativity to my students. (And I always have some sort of performance up my sleeve for assemblies). Not surprisingly, Mlle created an alter-ego clown named Zoléo and wrote French children’s music. So rad. http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/zoleo

Mme Cotter – grades 3 + 6: I think Mme was the smartest person I know. She taught us songs and taught in small groups – two things that I value in my classroom. She gave me the love of overseas penpals and the value of snail mail. She had us make poster projects (one of my favourite things for my students to create) and do a lot of research. Most importantly, she had confidence in me and encouraged me to be a leader amongst my peers. I truly value the things I learned about myself in her classes. Mme eventually became a principal – and is now happily retired.

M. Pelland – 5e année: My first male teacher (and his first year of teaching!). His perspective and love of practical jokes leaves a lasting memory for me. My best memory is his epic Lou Flirpa joke (I copied this joke with my students and wrote an ode to it in a blog post here). He was very strict with his ZERO English rule (that is my number one classroom rule) and gave out random little toys for fun (plastic smurfs!). We created a class newspaper (still on my list of to-dos) and he used a purple pen to mark things. He would often share stories about his family (nightmare about buying his engagement ring for his wife) and his hobbies and interests. It made him real and likeable. I always try to incorporate these things in my mini lessons as well.  M. Pelland is still teaching at KPS.

Miss Hopper – Music. She was my trumpet mentor extraordinaire. She made my confidence soar, and I still play my trumpet in the Port Elgin Community Band (and in our school band). She made me lose my fear of performing in front of a crowd, gave me solos and continued to be supportive throughout high school. She helped me get a spot in the pit orchestra for one of my favourite musicals of all time (A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum), she taught us some fab choir songs and introduced to me to the (underappreciated) movie Newsies (love!). I incorporate music in my classroom on a regular basis and I am a huge advocate our school’s music program. Miss Hopper currently teaches High School music.

What were your favourite things about these teachers? Do you think of them as often as I do? If you weren’t in my wonderful KPS French Immersion class – when you think of your past teachers, do you think of them with fondness and inspiration? Why? Why not? Do you think that your high school teachers had more of an impact on your life today, or elementary?

*The above letter is from one of my super-rad students. She writes me a heartfelt letter every year. They are all hanging on my wall. xo

** If you have contact info for any of the above teachers, please send them over.