In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, Liz Keleher, a member of our Adoption team, shares a personal story of a teacher from her past—one who inspired Liz to follow in her footsteps.
As a child, I was competitive, though not with other kids. I was driven to tackle the challenges I faced. This posed a problem when it was time for me to step up my “reading game” in 2nd grade. As most 2nd grade teachers will tell you, much of their time is spent striving to ensure all of their students, who come to them as early readers, become fluent readers, because being a struggling reader is a barrier to almost everything else a child needs to continue to grow. Unfortunately for me, as I was nearing the end of the school year, I was still very much a struggling reader.
I remember looking at the pages of the books in our classroom library and being overwhelmed by the sheer number of words I felt challenged to figure out. My competitive nature was taking over and the harder I tried, the more frustrated I became. Mrs. Torgerson sensed this, and instead of pushing me towards the books that intimidated me, she gave me Dick and Jane. She presented it to me like it was a gift—not an element of remediation, or a sign that I was different from my peers.
When I first sat down with the book, I read it front to back and discovered that even a few words—no more than three on a page—could tell a story. I wasn’t challenged to figure something out or achieve some standard. I was shown that however simple the text, the words and pictures could take me on an adventure. Maybe Dick and Jane simply ran and played with Spot without going on an undercover mission or solving the world’s problems, but it was an adventure that I could experience by simply choosing to take it in. Decoding the words was the ticket to going along for the ride, and it wasn’t long before I was fluent enough to read chapter books, or get lost in the Boxcar Children and Nancy Drew series.
Thirteen years later, I became an avid reader AND a 1st grade teacher. Because of Mrs. Torgerson, I found happiness in helping children discover the exciting world that reading could open up to them. Each day, as I held story time with my students, I watched their eyes light up as they listened to me read and draw them into the story. This was the hook that many of them needed to get excited to learn to read themselves.
Now, I have a little girl of my own and can’t wait for her to go to school. It’s where she’ll learn that there are adults other than Mommy and Daddy who truly care about and enjoy finding what makes her “tick.” It’s where she’ll get what she needs to be engaged in her own learning.
Mrs. Torgerson was only one of the many teachers I was lucky enough to have that made me feel appreciated, understood, and invested in my own education. I’m grateful for the opportunity to remember that during Teacher Appreciation week!