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The First Teacher I Truly Enjoyed This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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As a student at Smith Middle School, I spent three long years feeling as if my education was secondary to the needs of the state and the district. When my teachers discussed our scores on TAKS or STAAR, it was always in reference to whether the state was satisfied with our performance or whether the school district would be considered acceptable. The administrators constantly hounded students about attendance, but most of us paid very little attention to them because of their obvious ulterior motive; the district, and therefore our school, got paid for every student who was counted present during the second period roll call. I got an inside look at the situation because of my mother’s occupation as a math teacher there, and I gradually became very apathetic toward anything concerning education. It wasn’t until I met Mrs. Andrews during my freshman year at high school that my attitude began to change.

When I first walked into Mrs. Andrews’s geometry class, my initial impression was that I going to be stuck with a crazy old bat for an entire year. She was your average little old lady with her gray hair, floor-length skirts, and matching jewelry. Previous experience had taught me that most older teachers were slightly past their prime and simply waiting to claim retirement, so I wasn’t expecting much. She unwittingly furthered this impression by asking us to sing along with Angus, a character she’d created to help teach the lesson. I had very little respect for techniques like that, mostly because they had been so badly misused by earlier teachers. Yet, as the year went on, her methods grew on me and helped make a complicated subject seem fun and entertaining, if not easy. Her silly songs were amazingly catchy, and they were always to a tune that we knew, like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. Even the upperclassmen would end up singing along if they were passing by, which just goes to show how effective the songs were to memorizing the otherwise tedious formulas involved in geometry. Another favorite of hers was the math jokes that would appear in the comics section of newspapers. She was so amused by them that I couldn't help but laugh, too.

Mrs. Andrews was the first teacher that I’ve had that had worked in a field other than teaching that still utilized the subject that she was interested in. She worked as a telephone operator at an insurance company for longer than I’ve lived, and she had to use complex math to help the customers. She was penalized for every error, which led to an amazing adeptness and accuracy. This, along with some other anecdotes about her life, helped me realize the usefulness of math in careers that I hadn’t considered before. In the past, I would have written math off as a subject that, in the higher level forms, was pointless unless you were planning on becoming a mathematician or professor. She exposed me to the broad range of jobs, from engineering to insurance, that use math on a daily basis.

Mrs. Andrews also served as a pillar to the math community at Cleburne High School. She was not the head of the Math Department, but that was simply because she didn’t want to control the fine details of things that weren’t actually math. She held parties at Christmas and Thanksgiving where she cooked for every staff member in the Math Department. She invited them to her house, and she was always generous despite her financial difficulties.

Overall, Mrs. Andrews was an inspiration to me. She went beyond what was strictly necessary and took the time to know every student of hers on an individual basis. Even though I was often overlooked because of my low-key attitude, Mrs. Andrews remembered me when the time came to nominate students for awards. She respected my boundaries and didn’t ask me to do things that would make me uncomfortable unnecessarily, but she pushed me when she thought I needed it. She helped teach me something surprising; not math, which I probably could have taught myself, but the fact that sometimes learning can be interesting and engaging.

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pulledheartstring said...
today at 2:14 am:
Wow, I don't think I can ever have a math teacher who inspires me so (I dislike math, most of the time). The first teacher who inspired me made me realize how badly I needed to find my voice.
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