Remembering important teachers, part 1

calculusAs a sort of end-of-summer, getting-ready-for-school series, I asked friends to tell me about a teacher that they had sometime during their K-12 tenure that made a positive impression on them – an impression that’s lasted, for whatever reason. Here’s my first entry, from my former college roommate and always great friend, Mike Steinharter. I think we all had a Mrs. Breyer.

At my age, I’m lucky if I can remember my college professors, but I do remember one high school math teacher who somehow captured my imagination and led me down a path. It’s been so long I’m not even sure I remember her name, but I can picture her like it was yesterday.

Mrs Breyer (I think) was so smart and crisp in how she dealt with us and with the material. She had a way of explaining calculus so that it was straightforward. I got it, first time, all through the year, and it made me realize that I was pretty good at math. She was patient yet impatient at the same time – patient explaining math principles but with no tolerance for those in class who wouldn’t invest the time, energy, and attention to do it properly. I don’t have memories of her fawning over any of us who battled for top spots in the class, and I don’t even remember a lot of positive encouragement, yet somehow if she said, “Well done,” it meant more than any of the feedback you might get from other, perhaps less committed teachers, when you did no more than try hard.

I went on to study math in college, mostly because Mrs Breyer made me realize that I was good at it. I never showed interest in a deeply mathematical profession; I was too social for that, but the grounding I got from her teaching is still with me, and when I teach during my volunteer work for Junior Achievement, I find myself wondering whether or not I conduct myself as well as Mrs. Breyer would and whether or not she’d be proud enough of me to offer a “well done.”

I got the above image here.

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