This is Teacher Appreciation Week across the country and today is recognized as National Teacher’s Day. I was fortunate to have many great teachers during my time in school, but this year as my oldest son finishes second grade, my mind is drawn to my own second grade teacher, Miss Dottie Dodd.
I was six-years-old entering the second grade when my mom and I went to open house at Whitmell Elementary School. We walked up to the table where I would be told whose class I would be in for this year. When we found my name under Miss Dodd’s roster, my mom had one of the happiest reactions I’ve ever seen. Miss Dodd had quite a reputation in our family already as my uncle’s (who was a self-admitted reluctant elementary school student) favorite teacher.
There are a lot of specific things that I remember about that year, and there are several that have stayed with me through my time as a student and even as a teacher.
Miss Dodd’s classroom wasn’t really even a classroom. As we walked to class that first time, we exited the back of the building and entered her trailer. Now her room would be called a “Learning Cottage,” but it was really just a single-wide trailer. Miss Dodd was the kind of teacher who could’ve taught in any space the administration assigned her. They could have put her on the roof; she would have made that her classroom.
I distinctly remember her room and how it was decorated. It was beautiful. She had hand-traced and colored Disney characters from Bambi underneath the chalkboard with Thumper reminding us every day, “If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all.” Her care and attention to the little details made a difference to her students.
One day we were reading aloud in class and when it was my turn to read every time the paragraph had the word “palace” I would say “place” instead. I made this mistake multiple times. I remember being frustrated that I just couldn’t see the difference and continued to say “place”. I finally got through the paragraph, and Miss Dodd called on someone else. The next day, Miss Dodd sat down with me and had me practice with several index cards of closely related word pairs. She worked with me until I felt confident enough to read aloud again.
Also in second grade, we were assigned the essay topic: “What I Want to be When I Grow Up” for a school-wide essay contest. I wrote about my desire to be a famous ice skater. Two things of note here: 1) I had never been ice skating and 2) I did not want to just be an ice skater, but a famous one. Despite my lack of knowledge about ice skating, I won 1st place for the second grade and a prize of free ice cream for a week. For a whole week! Miss Dodd beamed with delight when my name was announced and made me feel so special.
At the end of that second grade year, my mom purchased a metal butterfly bookmark to give to Miss Dodd as an end of the year gift. About a week into summer break I received a letter addressed to me in the mailbox. It was a thank you note from Miss Dodd. I could not believe that my teacher wrote me a letter in the summer! It was such a tiny thing, but one that I have always remembered. I always try to write thank you notes to my students no matter how small the gift given. It is about showing appropriate appreciation to my students and their parents, while also modeling the correct behavior of gratitude for these children that will soon be adults in this world.
I appreciate Miss Dodd for her kindness, her enthusiasm, and her dedication to her students. I had the pleasure of seeing with Miss Dodd many times over the years, and I am thankful that I had the opportunity to let her know how much she meant to me.
Use this week to thank your child’s teacher or your own previous teachers for those small acts that made a difference to you. If they are no longer here, just as Miss Dodd passed on nearly three years ago, find a way to pay tribute to their legacy.