La Feria News

God Bless Our Teachers

Dear Editor,
Have you ever had one of those dreams that keeps running around in your head? It’s the same dream that has woken you up in the middle of the night for several nights, but the dream has remained elusive, and your conscious mind couldn’t remember what it was.
And, then the next day, while you are on the road, you see something that you see every day during your drive to the job. But this time, the light goes off in the back of your head. Oh! So, that is what has been waking me up at all hours of the night.
Just as you drive into the parking lot at work, the thought has to get filed somewhere in your subconscious brain for later reference. The clarity was sharp and concise, but now it has to go to the back burner, while other pressing issues of the day meet you head on.
Well, this is one of those times for me. But the answer came while reading a chapter in a mystery novel. It’s the same book that I’ve been reading each night to get my mind off work, so my active brain will shut up long enough, so I can go back to sleep.
This time, however, the clarity switch turned back on and won’t go off. I continued to read, but got lost in the words on the page, because my brain kept returning to the memory that I had on my drive to work today.
So, here goes . . . even though I have driven to work for several days now, because in-service has already started for me, the flashing yellow school lights on my way to the La Feria Bakery sounded the alarm bells in my head.
School is really getting ready to start again! I’ve been going to in-service all week long. What part of “school has already started” do I not understand?
Wasn’t it Abraham Lincoln who said if we do not teach the children of today and do not teach them by example, who will be our leaders tomorrow!
Then my brain skips to the thought… at my age, why am I doing this again? But, I already know what the answer is.
It’s not about me; it’s about my students. I chose this profession, like most of my family members, because there were teachers along the way and strong leaders in administration that really made an impact on me during my journey through the La Feria ISD system.
It wasn’t the buildings, or the lack of air conditioning; it wasn’t the heat, or the ever-present gnats that came to mind.
And, while my mind may have wandered off topic to those summer shopping trips with my mother to Mercedes or Harlingen to put school clothes on lay-away, it was really something else that set off the alarms. Those strong personalities from my past were bringing smiles to my face.
Anybody in this town who had Mrs. Steger in third grade remembers those unexpected finger thumps to the head. When you didn’t get that math problem right, because you had forgotten to study your multiplication tables the night before, the thump was delivered as she went up and down the aisles to check your class work. It only took once, and you never forgot to practice them again!
I remember once, nonchalantly walking into Mrs. Eubanks’s fifth grade class. I was fashionably late, because I had overslept; my mother had thought it was time for one of those life lessons.
As I recall, I didn’t have to go to the principal’s office for an excuse. I just walked into class.
Mrs. Eubanks happened to be at her desk. When I walked through the doorway, she politely asked why I was late. I was honest and told her that I just overslept; this was rather naive on my part.
As she gave me “the look” over the top of her glasses, that woman “ripped me a new one” right in front of the class! I was never ever late again for the rest of the year!
Then there was Mrs. Clapp. In sixth grade, she was an extraordinary and an exceptional task-master. I remember learning all my states and capitals. All the nights of study it took to get there. She kept giving that stupid test until everyone mastered it. And, spelling counted!
Then there was her geography project, where we made continents with that alum-dough mixture. It was nasty-tasting stuff, not made for contact with a human mouth. I can still see myself painting the geographic features of Africa. Her projects were always hands-on.
Junior high was kind of a blur for me because I had so many teachers; I had been used to just one. So that was a really big change in my education. But one constant, because I was in band, was Mr. Don Fleuriet.
He was something else! Anybody in La Feria, who knows anything about the La Feria band program, knows about ALL those first division honors!
At Pigskin or concert contest, no band in its right mind wanted to play after the LFHS band, because it most always guaranteed a two for that band’s performance rating. Guess that’s why his photo and name are above the doorway when you enter the band hall!
By the time I got to high school, I was much more adjusted to the “how many teachers am I going to get” routine. So, I wasn’t flustered much by the numbers. There were still more women, than men; but that wasn’t a problem.
If Mrs. Oekerman hadn’t taught me freshman English the way she did in 1966-1967, I never would have survived last year while teaching freshman English myself. It is one thing to be the student, and then an entirely different matter to be the teacher responsible for teaching the subject, especially after a 30-year break.
My reasoning for this walk down memory lane is this… it was the people, not the buildings that made the difference. It was the leadership in the principal’s office and the support of the school board that made things happen.
It wasn’t about the money, or least it didn’t seem that way to me. It wasn’t about who had to do what job, or who had to sponsor which club. It wasn’t about what school can we build next.
It was about people coming together. It was about the community being heard and understood by the administration. It was about doing things the right way.
Maybe I’m just frustrated with life right now, but many schools throughout the Rio Grande Valley seem to have forgotten that teachers do what they do because they love to teach children.
Why on God’s green earth, would I go back for a 39th year in the teaching profession, if I did not care about the students? It’s not logical.
My students are the main reason I get out of bed each morning. They are the reasons that I can convince myself I can do this just one more time.
About education, the 16th president also said, “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.”
As educators, how we shape student minds and how we conduct ourselves inside and outside of the classroom has far more reaching consequences than the actions of parents in the home.
I think Anne Sullivan, the teacher of a deaf, dumb, and blind little girl, Helen Keller, said it best… “My heart is singing for joy this morning. A miracle has happened! The light of understanding has shone upon my little pupil’s mind, and behold, all things are changed.”
That’s why I became a teacher. That’s why I’m so glad I had exemplary teachers in the La Feria school system along the way who helped to mold me, so that I would become a teacher. God bless them, everyone.

Gail Brandt

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