Thursday, March 25, 2010
Never had a better teacher
Good teachers are so much more than teachers.
They make learning fun.
And they’re tough, too.
On January 28 of this year, one of my all-time favorites, Charlotte Hall Rich, died at age 57. She had survived Stage 4 cancer for more than 10 years.
Ms. Rich was an English teacher at Hamilton, Ala., High School. But she was so much more.
Her legacy is that she poured her heart and soul into her job, her school and her students. The lives she influenced to the positive are countless. And those lives include mine. I’ve never had a better teacher – period.
I remember her classes well. She made reading and literature and writing – all that stuff most high school students hate – enjoyable. Her classes were difficult, too. She was not an easy teacher. She challenged her students to do better. And even if I did not appreciate it so much then, I definitely do now.
Ms. Rich encouraged her students to learn – not just from the school books but from the snags life throws at you, too.
I recall going to her on more than one occasion for advice – not just about school and classes and a future career but about girlfriends, peer pressure, even sports and such.
She was one of three teachers at Hamilton High who played a primary role in my choice of profession. She liked my writing skills as a high school student and she urged me to keep writing. And she helped me improve those skills.
Ms. Rich urged her students to be involved in extra-curricular activities. She played many roles at the school during her plus-30 years of teaching there. Those included senior class sponsor, Fellowship of Christian Athletes advisor, cheerleader sponsor, National Honor Society advisor and more.
I will never forget her smile. Her personality and enthusiasm were contagious.
Ms. Rich was obviously a fighter. She battled her disease and kept on teaching and influencing lives in the face of adversity. Students and fellow faculty members witnessed her “never give up” attitude. She motivated everyone to live each day to the fullest – not complain.
A couple of years ago I took a day off and drove back to my hometown. One of the most important things on my agenda was stopping by my alma mater and visiting with Ms. Rich.
I had not seen her in probably 20 years.
She was very surprised. It was great to see her. She greeted me with a big hug. She was still the same upbeat, positive person.
Seeing her classroom – the same one she occupied when I was a student – stirred special memories. We shared thoughts of the Class of 1979. Ms. Rich loved our class, but to be honest, she loved every student who ever walked the halls of that school.
She did not want to talk about her and her illness the day I visited. She only wanted to learn about my job and my family.
I’m so glad I made that trip that day. It’s one I will always cherish – just as I will all of my memories of Ms. Rich.
We need more teachers like Ms. Rich – those who dedicate their lives to their students.
She helped mold me into the person I am today, and for that, I am most thankful.
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