Great teachers are not born between the pages of knowledge, whims of administrators or the policies of school district board members. They are a gift given to us from a higher source — a divine source that is only concerned with the welfare and future of our children, not the politics of curriculum.
Writer and poet William Arthur Ward must have had Laurie in mind when he wrote, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” Through the years, Mrs. E. has motivated her students to learn the importance of reading and a good education. She inspires all of us with her work ethic, positive attitude and, like an angel, her willingness to help others in their time of need.
The Greek word for “angel” is “messenger.” Over the last 30 years Laurie has truly been a messenger of knowledge for her students. But more than that, she has taught me the meaning of human kindness, the importance of family values and a deep appreciation for the human spirit.
For many years, whenever someone she knew was sick, she would always be up early in the morning preparing a meal for their entire family and then deliver it to their doorstep on her way to school. When my mother was on her deathbed, Laurie spent time comforting her, something I will always be grateful for. Everyone knows if you need help getting anything done, just ask Laurie; she always found time to help others regardless of how tired or exhausted she was from her day in the classroom.
Dan Rather, journalist and former TV news anchor, said, “The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth.’” Laurie and I have had countless conversations and discussions concerning politics, religion and social issues. After she patiently listened to my “know-it-all” side of the issue, she would lead me to the next plateau of reality before she jabbed me with her sword of common sense and truth.
In 1946, Francis Goodrich co-wrote the screenplay for “It’s a Wonderful Life.” One of its memorable lines was, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.” On June 6, the school bell at Florence Drake will summon Mrs. E. to her first-grade class for the last time. It will echo the memories of 29 years of an unselfish educator’s loyalty to her students, faculty and community. A wise woman once wrote, “There are three good reasons to be a teacher: June, July and August.” She should have added retirement to her list — the time when great teachers finally get their well-deserved wings.
According to one Turkish educator, “A good teacher is like a candle — it consumes itself to light the way for others.” And that is what Mrs. E. has done all of her personal and professional life. She has consumed herself with an eternal light, brightening the path of guidance and wisdom while helping others to fulfill their dream of success. She has passed her candle of light to her two daughters, who are also teachers. They, too, are consumed by the same flame and passion for teaching and commitment to help others.
So Laurie, I offer you this toast: May you always be the beneficiary of a great life, good health, happiness, spiritual awareness, a loving family and all good things. Thank you for all you have done for education, your friends and especially for me. Enjoy your well-deserved retirement and as my old friend Jack Joseph would say at the end of his radio programs, I wish you an eternity of “blue skies and green lights.”
David Farside is a Sparks resident and political activist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.