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Mrs. Wagner

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“Sixth grade? Uh...you’re in for a real ‘fun’ time this year.” – That’s about the general response a kid gets when entering Mrs. Wagner’s grade. And, I’d say it’s about the response deserved.

It was a huge change, from the somewhat relaxed environment of fifth grade to the demanding and time-consuming load of sixth grade. Fifth grade was awesome...hands down. Sixth grade and Mrs. Wagner was tough...also hands down. She piled the work high, and she expected a lot, but never an unreachable lot, just our best. But, maybe that’s why she was such a good teacher: she rewarded effort.
An admirable day in class meant paying attention, asking questions, and understanding what we were being taught. And it was always rewarded, whether through a game, extra time to talk or even a chance to use up our energy outside, which we always had in abundance.

But on our bad days, those which we gave less than adequate attention to the teaching or school in general, we were reprimanded. But, she understood the nature of her students. She wouldn’t give up on us when we gave up on the day; instead, she’d do something a bit different to capture us again. Like one day, in math class, we were so far gone from school. All of us were off in our own dream worlds or chatting with our neighbors when we thought she wasn’t looking, and sometimes even when she was.
Then, randomly, Mrs. Wagner walked to the back of the room to her cabinet (we’d already been reprimanded half a dozen times). She walked back to the front with something in her hands and turned away from us. By that time she had at least half of the class perfectly alert. When she turned around, a stunned silence was followed by giggles of disbelieve which then caught the rest of the class’s attention. They tuned in to realize our strictly fair teacher had on a giraffe mask. Mrs. Wagner sighed and then said, “Do I have your attention now?” She wore the mask the rest of the class and we all listened attentively to the lessons that day, though outbursts of laughs occurred as well. The little things, like what she did that day, made class...interesting and also educational.
She also had fun field trips planned that she held over our heads, demanding obedience. One was a math scavenger hunt at Mayfair Mall. Then, there was the π eating contest. The top six math students in the class got to participate in a pie eating contest against the principal. Those certainly motivated us in math.
And, of course, Mrs. Wagner saved the best for last. Somewhere within the last month of school, there would be a 6th grade camping trip, strictly for fun. So right around the time when we were all getting antsy for school to get out, she’d threaten us with canceling the camping trip if we couldn’t concentrate and obey. The trip was an exciting way to end the year.

In seventh grade, we just had Mrs. Wagner for life science. We spent more time in the lab than in the classroom reading textbooks, which was perfectly fine with me. We got to learn through hands-on experiences.
In eighth grade, when we had her for earth science, we also spent much of our time in the lab doing experiments. But, the best thing about that year was that she understood how we were itching for the end of the school year, graduation, the D.C. trip and everything in between. She’d constantly remind us to concentrate and not throw it all away in our last year at Country Christian School. And so, the last couple of weeks she still taught, but she taught for our benefit. She gave us knowledge and facts and information, but didn’t test us on any of it. She said as long as we paid attention, that’s all she’d do. I think she was allowing us to let go a little without taking away anything we could learn. She gave us the grace that the other teachers did not; she gave us a chance to take as much out of the class as we needed.

But, what touched me the most about Mrs. Wagner is that she truly loved us. Every single one of us. She cared about our personal problems, and understood what it’s like to be HUMAN. She cared about our mixed feeling of excitement and sadness as graduation approached, and she cried with us.
That’s why I’m nominating Mrs. Wagner as the Educator of the Year.



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