by Todd Habiger
In this Catholic Schools week, I am reminded of the importance of teachers in my life — and teachers in general. Of all the people we encounter in our lifetime, few are as important and influential as our teachers.
I don’t remember my first banker, my first pharmacist, my first lawyer, my first tax person or my first veterinarian, but I can name every elementary teacher I had.
Here, I’ll prove it: Kindergarten, Mrs. Cady; first grade, Mrs. Bee; second grade, Mrs. Garrett; third grade, Mrs. Westerman; fourth grade, Mrs. Crane; fifth grade, Mrs. Parish; and sixth grade, Mrs. Sarver.
These teachers helped shape my early years. They helped mold me as I grew. I formed many of my opinions and values based on their influence.
That, my friends is power.
As I grew older, and began to think about my future, there were three teachers that had great influence over my career path that I would like to highlight here because without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
First there is Donna Houser. Mrs. Houser was my freshman English teacher. She was a former dental hygienist who made the transition to teacher later in life. She was an excellent teacher. At this point in my life I was shy, and had little confidence in myself and some doubt as to whether I was college material.
Mrs. Houser put all those doubts out of my mind. She encouraged me and did subtle things that helped me gain the confidence I sorely lacked. She was honest and expected a lot, but was always there to guide and help me reach my goals.
During my sophomore year, I crossed paths with a young teacher named Burl Powell. He was unlike anything I had ever seen. Fresh out of college, Mr. Powell had an amazing sense of humor and an uncanny ability to connect with students.
He was my English and journalism teacher and the reason I became interested in journalism as a career. He recognized my talent as a writer and held my work to a high standard. He also gave me some leadership responsibilities — knowing that that wasn’t my strong suit, but recognizing that it was something that I needed to work on.
Mr. Powell was someone I felt I could talk to about my future and about life. He was young enough to realize what I was going through, but old enough to help me work though my difficulties. He probably had the most influence on my early career track.
Finally, there is Tosca Bryant, my journalism teacher at Allen County Community College. I wasn’t ready to head to a four-year school out of high school. I wasn’t that mature and still didn’t have the confidence I needed to succeed.
Tosca gave me the push I needed. Right away, Tosca knew I had what it took to be a good professional journalist and did everything in her power to make sure I had the tools to reach that goal. She gave me the most difficult and controversial assignments.
During my sophomore year at Allen County, she named me editor and gave me total control over the paper, which she let me redesign and rename. When I expressed a desire to go to a small college, she flat out told me I needed to go to the University of Kansas.
When I asked why, she said, “That’s where the best journalism students go. That’s where you need to be.”
Teachers don’t get into their line of work for fame or fortune. But they can mold minds. Teaching, in my opinion, is the most influential profession there is.