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For the Love of Teachers: True Stories of Amazing Teachers and the People Who Love Them

For the Love of Teachers: True Stories of Amazing Teachers and the People Who Love Them

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For the Love of Teachers: True Stories of Amazing Teachers and the People Who Love Them

198 pages
3 hours
May 7, 2013


For the Love of Teachers is a tribute to those who possess the remarkable ability to exercise patience and understanding and to offer guidance along an unfamiliar path. The influence these dedicated teachers have is reflected in many of the goals their students set and achieve every day; whether learning to tie their shoes, memorizing multiplication tables, or excelling on the SATs—all basic steps which are vital to their growth and self-esteem. For this reason, among many others, the importance of these positive role models in our children's lives, as well as our own, can't be stressed enough. For the Love of Teachers is the ideal way to express the admiration and appreciation we share for them.

The reasons why someone chooses to teach isn't always clear, but what many teachers have in common is the desire to make a difference in the lives of others—a task that can be bittersweet. For the Love of Teachers is filled with inspiring stories that do just that. Some are warm, humorous, and heartfelt, while others illustrate difficult or unexpected situations with the lessons learned along the way. Readers will identify with many of the students who recall that special teacher who challenged them to find their hidden talent, motivated them to push a little harder, or to simply surpass their own expectations.

For the Love of Teachers is a special way of saying thanks to all the teachers who've sacrificed their time to better the lives of others.
May 7, 2013

About the author

Todd Whitaker is a leading presenter in the field of education and a professor of educational leadership at the University of Missouri and professor emeritus at Indiana State University. He has previously served as both a teacher and a principal and is the author of more than 40 books, including What Great Teachers Do Differently, Your First Year, and Shifting the Monkey, along with the books he has coauthored with Steve Gruenert.

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For the Love of Teachers - Todd Whitaker

Health Communications, Inc.

HCI Books, the Life Issues Publisher

Deerfield Beach, Florida

For my mother, Avis, whose calmness and

sense of humor permeates my life;

my wife Beth, who makes me

a better person each day;

and my three children,

Katherine, Madeline, and Harrison,

who make my life complete.

Thank you for all you have taught me.




The Soul of a Poet Award Donna Watson

A Gym-Dandy Coach Woody Woodburn

He Meant the World to Me Charmi Schroeder

The Unwise Monkey Joyce Stark

Math: It’s Not Just About

the Numbers Carrie Pepper

The Odyssey Christa Allan

Miss Burns Susan Merson

The Hat Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow

The Power of One Abha Iyengar

That Downright Mean Coach Louis A. Hill Jr.

Old Crow Mary Cook



Heaven Times Heaven Cristy Trandahl

Ten Things I Have Learned

from Kids Linda Kaullen Perkins

His Joy Became My Joy Ellie Braun-Haley

Cooperative Learning Rosemary McKinley

The Power of a Leaf Diane Payne

On Turkish

Shores Elizabeth Phillips-Hershey, PhD

My Sons, My

Ultimate Teachers Colleen Ferris Holz

Stop Poist Chris Bancells

Teaching the World Kathryn Lay

Paying Dividends Michelle Mach

Raindrops Tickle My Tongue John J. Lesjack


Kenneth Samantha Ducloux Waltz

The Rookie Todd Outcalt

Spelling Lesson Susan Stephenson

Beginning Ideas Becky Kelley

The Promise Nancy Julien Kopp

The Substitute Diane Stark

The Measure of a Teacher Scott T. Gill

A Teacher of Human Beings Val Muller


Picture-Perfect D. B. Zane

Tomaida’s Treasure Jill Sunshine

In Training Cynthia M. Hamond

Smiles Are Upside-

Down Frowns Lois Greene Stone

Learning from

the Rookie Diane Gonzales Bertrand

A Sea of White Donna Amato

Lessons from Mr. Cain Nancy Engler

Student of the Month Terri Elders

Living Life

Unretouched Lois Greene Stone

Watching for the Rebound Terri Elders

The Hat That

Looked Like a Rug Delores Liesner


The Little

Things Mimi Greenwood Knight

Buck Tyler’s

Example Taught Best Mickey Burriss

We Will Always Be Friends Miriam Hill

To Touch a Child Nancy Julien Kopp

Bonnie’s Song Pam Bostwick

Camp Ozanam John J. Lesjack

Normal Day in

Second Grade Linda Kaullen Perkins

A Real Somebody Donna Hedger

She Taught Me So Much More

Than Math Michael Jordan Segal

A Greater Kind

of Love Linda Mehus-Barber

The Writers

About the Author

Copyright Credits


Teaching is a profession that makes a difference every single day—on both sides of the desk. Virtually all of us can remember the kindness, caring, and humor of the special people who taught us when we were their students. Many of them shaped our minds and touched our hearts. Their impact was immeasurable and ongoing.

No matter how old you were or what grade you were in when you connected with that special teacher, you know that the unique gifts a great teacher shares stay with you forever.

Do you recall how you felt when your favorite teacher read a thought-provoking story to your class? Do you remember the teacher who taught you how to multiply when you were so frustrated you wanted to give up, or the teacher who knew when you needed encouragement, or the one who gave you breathing room when you needed just that? The special something these teachers possess continues to remind all of us in this profession why we chose to be educators ourselves.

Unfortunately, many students come from homes where there may not be a stable environment or a consistent and positive role model. Many times, teachers are these students’ last and best hope. It is essential that each child walk into a classroom—every day—to the teacher who inspires by example. Education’s goal is to cultivate society, not to reflect it. We have to teach and model new and better ways each day in our classrooms.

A teacher’s influence can last a lifetime. We all chose a career in education for different reasons, but we share the common desire to make a difference—yet some days we lose touch with that initial passion. Sometimes, when we have a challenging day or face a troubling class, we may forget the difference we can make for each and every student. On those days, you’ll find the stories in this book to be a treasure trove of inspiration and innovation. You’ll be motivated to try other teachers’ novel techniques as you read about their challenges, their memorable students, and the times they knew they made an impact. You’ll walk into the classrooms of some of the most gifted and caring educators in the world, and share their memories of humorous happenings and poignant moments. You’ll delight in the recollections of some of those students themselves, and you’ll learn from the mentoring advice of some special experts whose best teaching tips will resonate with new and experienced educators alike.

A very wise person once told me, Those who can, teach. Those who can’t go into a much less significant line of work. Good reading and thanks for making a difference.




The Soul of a Poet Award

By Donna Watson

Every year I bestow a unique award. I never plan to give it; I never know which student will earn it. I call it the Soul of a Poet Award. This award’s inception began almost two decades ago, during student teaching.

As a student teacher, I found it difficult to reach struggling students, especially in the critical subject areas of reading and writing. Understandably, they feared taking risks or making mistakes in front of their more capable, and sometimes quick to taunt, classmates. Jake was one of my first challenging students. An underachiever who had been plunked inappropriately into a Gifted and Talented fourth-grade class, Jake struggled daily to keep up with his precocious classmates. In a room overflowing with ­overanxious hand-raisers, Jake remained sullen and silent, until the day we picked up our pencils to pen a bit of poetry.

As I wrote the topic on the board, I remember thinking that this assignment might be a tough sell. Today we will write a ­single sentence using a metaphor to describe love.

Not surprisingly, half of the class responded with a collective groan. They were, after all, nine- and ten-year-olds. Their ears perked up a bit upon learning that their responses and accompanying artwork would be submitted for possible publication in the local newspaper for Valentine’s Day.

As I wandered around the room monitoring their work and commenting with a perfunctory Good job! or Nice work! I happened to glance down at Jake’s paper.

Love is peanut butter and jelly and all that makes me feel sticky and gooey inside.

He cautiously glanced up at me. The words, penned in crayon, sprang out of a giant red heart. I stifled my first reaction. I had specifically stated that the words must be written in pencil. Jake, once again, neglected to follow directions. But I resisted the urge to admonish him for writing in crayon, especially on an assignment headed for the newspaper.

We shared a tentative smile. I had no idea that my next response would resound for years to come: Why Jake, I think you have the soul of a poet!

Apparently the newspaper editors agreed, for when I opened the Valentine’s Day issue, Jake’s declaration of love burst right off the front page of the Features section.

I finished student teaching not long afterward to begin my solo teaching journey, packing away more than just books and papers as I left.

I have found that through poetry writing and personal essays, students face fears, examine prejudices, and overcome personal obstacles. Annually, my students write poems about Martin Luther King Jr., Ruby Bridges, Johnny Appleseed, favorite book characters, their families, and themselves. Children respond with gut-wrenching honesty and heartfelt integrity through writing. Even the shiest students scamper to the circle to share their individual thoughts.

Year after year, my Soul of a Poet Award is bestowed upon a most unlikely candidate. This past September, Mark rocketed into my second-grade classroom. Angry, defiant, torn from his father’s home, his friends, and the only school he had ever attended, Mark opposed any form of structure. My numerous and previously effective behavior-management tricks folded as he systematically played his hand. Parent phone calls, trips to the principal’s office, recess detention—nothing fazed Mark.

Bright but underachieving, Mark challenged authority at every turn. In my two decades of teaching, he held the dubious distinction as my most frustrating student. Slowly, very slowly, we established a tenuous bond. As the year progressed, Mark continued to press every nerve while simultaneously stealing my heart. Daily, he filled me with frustration and pride.

Writing seemed to allow Mark to release some of his anger and frustration in a healthier outlet. Over time, I noticed a gradual, positive shift in his behavior. When asked to write what was bothering him, Mark first just scratched the surface, but, as the year went on, he placed his problems on paper rather than trying to solve them with inappropriate words or physical contact. Although I have witnessed this kind of constructive conversion with other difficult students, Mark’s transformation encouraged and amazed me.

The bio-poem the students publish for open house at the end of the year remains my favorite. The format allows the students to expose their innermost thoughts and feelings. Every year I’m awestruck by the maturity some second-graders possess and project in their final poem about themselves. As Mark and the other students wrote, they asked me to spell words for their student dictionary. Mark asked for several words, each one more thought-provoking than the last. I told him I was anxious to hear his poem, knowing he had selected several hundred-dollar adjectives.

We gathered in our circle to share our prized poems. Mark waved his poem in my face like a checkered flag at a NASCAR race. It seemed to torture him to wait his turn, but once he began to read, I understood his sense of urgency to share.

Mark’s masterpiece was worth the wait:


By Mark, age 8

I touch God’s heavenly hands.

I dream of thousands of books scattered everywhere.

I want my father and mother to be with me always.

I am Mark.

I hear the sun up in the sky.

I wonder if my dad will be with me always.

I live on planet Earth.

I am Mark, the pleasant young man I was born to be.

I see the moon light the sky.

I like when we get to go to school.

I fear my Nana’s cat.

I am Mark, the generous young man I was

created to be.

I pretend to be in the army.

I cry when somebody goes away.

I love my whole family.

I am Mark, the generous, adventurous American Boy I was created to be.

Mark’s chestnut brown eyes sparkled as he savored my response: Mark, you have the soul of a poet!

A Gym-Dandy Coach

By Woody Woodburn

It was like being awakened by the telephone at three in the morning. Like having a police officer knock on your door at dinnertime. You instinctively know it’s not good news.

My heart raced double-time as I read the writing on the wall during a visit to my old middle school:

McFadden Gym.

Ring . . . ring . . . ring . . . Knock-knock-knock.

Gymnasiums and football stadiums are very much like statues. Statues are chiseled and sculpted to honor dead war heroes; gyms are usually christened after dead sports champions.

I hoped against hope that McFadden Gym was the rare exception to the rule, for I knew who the gym was named after: Harold R. McFadden. Coach McFadden. My favorite gym teacher—in fact, my favorite teacher of all time.

For the most part, the names of the teachers I had when I roamed Balboa Junior High in Ventura, ­California, in the early 1970s are lost in the cobwebs of my mind. Oh, sure, I remember my shop teacher, Mr. Howell. And Mrs. Stewart, who I had for English, seemingly every semester. And Mr. Nelson, my good friend Mike’s dad, who I had for math once.

But Coach McFadden was special. He was a diamond among rhinestones. A star among moons. He was an MVP if the teaching profession gave out such an award. When I think of Balboa, I think of Coach McFadden.

And when I think of Coach McFadden, I instantly think of athletic shoes. Fresh-out-of-the-shoebox new sneakers.

You see, I had the great fortune of having Coach McFadden for PE five of my six semesters at Balboa. I saw him every day, and every day, sunshine or rain, he had on a new pair of athletic shoes. Or so it seemed.

Actually, he only broke out a fresh pair of footgear three or four times a year. Christmas presents and birthday presents, he once told me. But he had more than a dozen old pairs of athletic shoes that looked brand-spankin’-new. Maybe twenty pairs. His secret, he gladly shared, was to clean them after every wearing—just like my grandpa used to do with his wingtip dress shoes. But instead of shoe polish and a soft cloth, Coach McFadden found that an old, soft toothbrush and some liquid dishwashing soap did the trick nicely.

So it just appeared as though Coach McFadden wore new shoes every day: red suede Converse low-top All-Stars on Monday, white Tigers (now called Asics) running shoes on Tuesday, blue Chuck Taylor Converse high-tops on ­Wednesday, Adidas Superstars with red stripes on Thursday, Adidas with blue stripes on Friday, and white and blue Nikes the next ­Monday.

To be sure, Coach McFadden was more than just a pretty pair of size 9½ feet. More than a male Imelda Marcos of the locker room. He was a superstar gym teacher. Even back then, three decades ago, he was coaching kids to say no to drugs, imploring us to hit the books, not just the basketball backboards and pitches in the strike zone.

Most of all, he encouraged us to try.

The stereotypical gym coach is a dour drillmaster Simon Legree with a clipboard and whistle. Coach McFadden was cut from a different sweatshirt cloth. He never raised his voice, never frowned, and was never at a loss for a few warm words. He whipped his students into shape with kindness and encouragement. He made the medicine taste like a spoonful of sugar.

Specifically, I vividly recall that he used to add one more push-up every week during our warm-up calisthenics, and by the end of the semester even the out-of-shape couch potatoes were down and doing twenty.

He swayed selfish gunners to play selfless team-style basketball. Some kids he turned on to wrestling, some on to track. He tried to turn every kid into some kind of athlete. If you couldn’t be a Bullet Bob sprinter, he urged, be a Distance Demon. Try. Be the best you can be.

A yardstick for any junior high gym instructor is the ­number of students who don’t dress out for class. Coach McFadden’s classes, I’m certain, set the standard

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