In Honour of Teacher Appreciation Week

To commemorate Teacher Appreciation Week, Tamara Duncan and the editors of Patch wrote a wonderful piece about the “teachers whose influence left an indelible mark on our lives.”

Stern voice, a warm heart

“One very influential teacher in my life was one of my high school and junior high English teachers. Gerri Clifton. She is now an instructional coach at Hazelwood West High School. She was a teacher when I attended the school. Being a person of color, at that time it was her and one other teacher of color at the school and she really bonded with all of her students.

“Mrs. Clifton was like a second mom at school. She made sure you were on your schoolwork. If there were a scholarship or some type of program she felt would benefit you, she would stay on you to apply. She also sponsored an after-school club, Cultural Awareness. It’s always important to have a person you feel can mentor you and in high school, Mrs. Clifton was that person for me. I see her now and she talks to me like I’m that same 15-year-old in class. Believe me, she wasn’t afraid to tell you to sit your behind down, pay attention and do your work!” Candace Jarrett, editor, Hazelwood Patch 

Empowerment through music

“Mr. Doug Carmichael introduced me and dozens of other students to the magnificence, versatility and depth of jazz. He did so by example. Mr. Carmichael made the music cool. He played a killer saxophone. He played along with the ensembles at Niwot High School in Colorado, demonstrating techniques and showing us how to pull off a solo. He pushed us to be our best, and he made us laugh. 

“Outside of the classroom, Mr. Carmichael took time out of his schedule to help students such as myself get better at our craft. He played alongside us, walked us through musical exercises and reviewed hapless efforts to transcribe music onto paper after hearing it performed on CD by the likes of Dexter Gordon. He invited us to jam with him and his trio at local cafes and restaurants. Some might say the birth of the cool happened decades ago. For myself and many other students, it happened when Mr. Carmichael empowered us to become performers in our own right.” -Nate Birt, editor, Clayton-Richmond Heights Patch

Lost in a sea of English

Ms. Pena, my first grade teacher in Houston, Texas, was a phenomenal person. I had recently moved to the states from South America and knew only three English words: watermelon, napkin and handkerchief. At that time there were no special classes for Spanish speakers and I was lost in a sea of English. Ms Pena was a ray of light in a confusing world. She made me feel welcomed, accepted and bright. She worked with me to learn English and clearly all her hard work paid off since years later, I’m a journalist.

I also tip my hat to Ms. Lewis, who taught history/social studies at Miami Palmetto High School. She made history fun and accessible and she was a wonderful, caring human being. She also registered me to vote and instilled a lifelong curiosity about politics. Oh, and can’t forget my son’s teachers at University City Children’s Center who help me co-parent him everyday, and are so very patient with him. Thank you teachers. You are heroes! 
-Myra Lopez, editor, University City Patch

Sharing her time, her home, her dog

I had an art teacher who lived next door to me in North St. Louis as a child. I felt lucky because she had time to spend with me when her second husband died and she had no children. But she did have a sweet little dachshund dog who I adopted as my own, since my mom wouldn’t let us have a dog. Mrs. Harnett didn’t teach in my school district or school—Twillman Elementary, so she wasn’t grading me, and that was even better. I was pretty shy.

We did all kinds of art on her patio under an oldstyle metal awning, sitting on a glider, with her little dog at our feet. It was hot Missouri summers, but cool under that awning. We drank ice water all summer while we did art. There were all kinds of art supplies in her kitchen, not much food. She also taught me to knit and crochet on rainy days, for some reason. I was game for all of it.

I drew a picture of her dachshund with passion, and later won a prize.

I grew up and moved away, but returned once to show her my design portfolio after college. She was very elderly then, and perhaps didn’t quite see how she had changed my life as she looked at my ‘snazzy’ magazine design and posters for off-off (OFF) Broadway plays. I won’t forget how she leaned over my right shoulder, showing me how to use that trove of art supplies, and waking up the right side of my brain.
-Jean Whitney, editor, Sunset Hills-Crestwood Patch

A pat on the back and a solid foundation

Without Roger Carlson, my late college journalism professor, I wouldn’t be where I am today. His experience and enthusiasm about the field is what sparked my interest in journalism, and he helped me build a solid foundation and a skill set that I still use today.

Coming from the “old school” days of journalism, he was never afraid to “tell you like it was,” but at the same time, was always quick with a pat on the back for a job well done. He shared in our triumphs and tribulations and his door was always open, even after we graduated.

He also served as advisor on the student newspaper and with his guidance, we were able to take The Forum to one of the top student newspapers in the state. Plus, he made learning fun by taking us to student newspaper conventions in New York, New Orleans and Washington, D.C., not to mention the numerous parties he hosted for The Forum.

He created a real “team” environment, from which many friendships were born and memories made. Many of us still keep in touch today – 20 years later – and still reminisce about our time together. That just underscores the fact that while he may be gone, he lives on in each and every one of us, and I know he’s looking down from heaven and smiling on us. 
– Sheri Gassaway, associate editor, St. Louis Patch

Challenged and busy

I was lucky, even in the very rural area of Illinois where I grew up, to have some truly remarkable teachers. There were no enrichment classes in my school, but my teachers kept me challenged and busy. Mrs. Clay let my best friend and I perform puppet plays for the class; Mrs. Allen encouraged me to create a fifth grade newspaper; Mrs. Green asked for my latest comic strip creations; Mrs. Farney entered my writing in a contest; in high school, Mr. Allen introduced me to the wonders of Shakespeare and then convinced me that majoring in drama might not be the best strategic career move (he was right!). They created an environment where I always wanted to give 100 percent—and love every minute of it.
-Tamara Duncan, editor, Lake Saint Louis Patch.

Who was your favourite teacher and why?


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