Teachers deserve appreciation

Published 10:56 am Thursday, May 5, 2016

Around this time seven years ago, I took my first tour of Western Michigan University, which is now my alma mater.

My twin sister and I piled into John Schulte’s car, took the trip to Kalamazoo and spent the day wandering campus and downtown.

Our tour guide was who showed me what would become some of my favorite places to curl up with a book and cram for lit tests. He showed us where he learned to speak Japanese and where all the communication buildings were, but also the important stuff — like where to get the best burger and which restaurants gave discounts if you had a student ID.

The man showing off his old stomping grounds wasn’t a family friend or sibling our parents had enlisted to show us the ropes; he was my former English and broadcast teacher, going above and beyond the call of duty to prepare his students for their future.

As schools across the country celebrated educators on Teacher Appreciation Day this week, I was reminded of so many people like John who changed my life for the better.

In addition to being my first connection to my alma mater, John went out of his way to challenge me in our English class, accelerating my reading track and introducing me to what are now some of my favorite authors.

I had so many teachers who pushed me to my limits not to stress me out or make my life miserable, but to challenge me. At the time, I probably hated their guts some days, but today I couldn’t be more thankful for these individuals.

I’ll never forget the countless sentences Jim Myers made me write to memorize where all a cat’s organs were, or the endless hours spent knee deep in a swamp because I’d gotten “sassy” the day he assigned ecosystems to evaluate. I can’t say I’ve ever had to revisit the anatomy of a cat or the pH levels of a water source, but he taught me to push myself and for that I am thankful.

And this is how teachers were across the board at Brandywine. Dave Brenneman challenged me to write my heart out, taking time out after school to help me improve my writing or just chat about books. Ryan Schau taught me how to take my passion for literature to teach others. Justin Rose taught me not only how to speak and write French, but how to use the language to enhance my English vocabulary.

Like John, a number of teachers I’ve had throughout the years took time outside of school to educate students and provide invaluable memories.

I saw our country’s history come to life as I traveled up and down the east coast with Dave Roeder and 50 or so other history lovers. I was moved to tears in Vietnam Memorial Park as I held hands with fellow choir members to sing an impromptu tribute to the veterans surrounding us in Washington D.C.

These individuals taught me so much more than how to do long division or write an essay; they taught me the value of hard work and perseverance, how to have patience when leading others and how to have confidence in myself.

I have so much admiration for these individuals — and all educators — who have dedicated their lives to shaping the next generation. I would not be the person I am today without the teachers I’ve had, and I am forever grateful.


Ambrosia Neldon is the managing editor at Leader Publications. She can be reached by phone at (269) 687-7713, or by email at ambrosia.neldon@leaderpub.com.