May 9, 2017

Honoring Teachers

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Happy National Teacher Day! In the United States, we celebrate public schoolteachers during National Teacher Appreciation Week, held annually in the first full week of May. Today, students in schools across the country will recognize their teachers' tireless work and dedication to learning.

Here at TOM BIHN, we think teachers come in many guises. There are the teachers we had at school, coaches, band directors, and art teachers. The college professors who made learning and teaching their life pursuit. And we cannot underestimate the importance of every informal teacher we’ve had—everyone who taught us a skill, shared a passion, or showed us a new way to see the world.

Today, a few members of the Crew and our Forum will share recollections of some of the teachers who had a lasting impact on their lives. We hope you enjoy them!


My Math Teacher and Track Coach
His name is Jack M. Toney. Mr. Toney taught in the Seattle Public Schools for 20 years, 15 of them at West Seattle High School, where he taught math and coached track, cross country, and swimming. He was my math teacher at West Seattle High School. Mr. Toney encouraged his students to not only achieve academic success within school, but encouraged them to strive for more outside school walls, such as volunteering within the community or participating in after-school activities.

My freshman year in high school, Mr. Toney encouraged me to try out different activities after school to see which one was best suited to me, so I tried out tennis and a few different after-school clubs. I never imagined myself doing any type of sports, but found that cross country track was a good fit. It just so happened that Mr. Toney ran the Track and Field Program after school.

Being a very shy young girl who had immigrated to this country and with parents who didn't speak any English, I had a hard time assimilating to the culture and language, and felt very out of place. I appreciate the encouragement that Mr. Toney gave, which helped me open up to others and see other possibilities in my life.

—Kim Do, Office Overlord at TOM BIHN 

My Music Teacher
Mrs. Dillon taught high school music in Belfast, Maine. Her curriculum included the usual band lessons and marching band, plus music theory and music appreciation. Many students took band just to get an easy A, thinking all they had to do was show up. This was not the case, as Mrs. Dillon gave challenging mid-term and final exams every year. She introduced us to classical music. Like most teenagers, we thought we hated classical music. Many of us were pleasantly surprised.

Mrs. Dillon was an exceptional music teacher, insisting that we show continued improvement. Because she expected so much of us, I learned to demand more of myself. I often think of Mrs. Dillon when I play Pachelbel's Canon on my ukulele. She was an inspiration and I am grateful for everything she did!

—AlaskaGirl, TOM BIHN Forum Member

My Math Teachers
As a high school dropout, you might think I haven’t much to say on Teacher Appreciation Day. But a few of my teachers really did have major impacts on my life: some by being truly great teachers, some simply by being good people who helped me survive as long as I did in school. And a few by being both.

The two that rise above the rest were my math teachers, Randy Smith and Gary Rominger. Randy was my math teacher in junior high school, and the year that I went on to high school coincided with Randy taking a job at the high school. In fact, the summer between junior high and high school I took an algebra class at the high school, which was team taught by Randy and Gary. Many folks might think of taking an algebra class as a great way to spoil your summer break, but it was a blast.

During my two and a half years in high school, the only classes I really looked forward to were my math classes (particularly, it should come as no surprise, geometry). All the math teachers shared a group office which was open to any students during lunch breaks, etc., and we were an eclectic lot of iconoclasts (read: misfits) that congregated there. I recall it as a very accepting and at the same time intellectually vigorous place to hang out. I can still hear Gary’s booming laughter, and see Randy with his omnipresent mug of coffee. Without really trying, they had created a safe place for us math geeks to be ourselves.

I still love math. And happily for me, in my design work I get to manifest my almost Pythagorean love of the elegance of numbers.

So thanks Randy, thanks Gary.

—Tom Bihn

My Classics Professor
I've had a number of good teachers at every stage of my education, but when I was thinking about what teacher I'd like to write about, one immediately came to mind: one of my Classical Studies professors in college. I remember at one point I was frustrated with my research for her class on the archaeology of ancient Greece, because I was reading books that disagreed with each other. I asked her which one was right. She patiently explained that I would need to think about what I was reading, put it together with other things I had learned, and see which view made the most sense to me. Now, twenty years later, I regularly put that kind of critical thinking to use at work, in my classes for graduate school, and reading news articles. It feels like second nature to me—but I learned it from her.

—aedifica, TOM BIHN Forum Member 

My English Teacher
Like most folks, I had some teachers who I really connected with, and some who I didn't. I'm sure there are some I've forgotten over time too.

One very memorable moment for me was in Mrs. Strickland's 9th grade English class. I wasn't a huge reader, and hadn't been exposed to much poetry at point. During the period we were starting to cover poetry, Mrs. Strickland pulled out a record player and played us Robert Frost reading his poem, “Birches." It was, in many ways, a life-changing experience. I could hear the emotion and meaning of the words in a way I had never felt. Most significantly, for the first time, I understood how important it is to read poetry aloud, something I still do to this day.

I listen to that recording of Robert Frost with some frequency, and you should too (click here). Since that time, I read a lot more than when I was younger. And I still enjoy poetry quite a lot, always out loud :)

—Mike VanReken, Customer Service and Shipping Manager at TOM BIHN


School may be a thing of the past for you, but there are probably at least a few teachers in your life who inspired you, encouraged you, challenged you, and who deserve some credit for helping make you the awesome possum you are today. Please take a moment to thank them. And to all of you who teach—anywhere, any subject, to students of any age: thank you.

Share memories of the teachers you'd like to honor in the Comments.



Kimberly M. King - November 19, 2019

It is interesting to look back and see what mattered to me as a student. Subtle recognition: Mr. Rusk, my Grade 12 math teacher, who lifted his pipe in greeting every morning when he drove by the bus stop. Faith in ability: Mrs. Evans, 8th grade Science, who taught us like she believed we were absolutely capable already and capable of even more still. Seeing what I could not: Mrs. Bailey, 3rd. grade, who wrote on my grade card “Needs to improve handwriting if anyone is going to read the incredible stories she has to tell.” Freedom: Mr. Fuller, Public Speaking my senior year, who let me make up an experience rather than share one of my own for the personal experience speech exercise. That simple act changed my life. Thank You, teachers. Thank you for your care for me as a person and for your craft. It has made all the difference to me…and to the hundreds of kids who have been entrusted to my care over the years.

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