Happy Teacher’s Day! (At least in Colombia)

Posted on 15/05/2012

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Today is the “Day of the Teacher,” as one would translate it directly from Spanish. We have this holiday in the United States, too (May8, 2012: Teacher Appreciationg Day), but it is not as widely celebrated as it is here. Today, my students have congratulated me, a co-worker gave us all a chocolate bar, and Human Resources gave us all a leather passport cover with the university’s logo on it🙂 I’d say, so far, it’s been a good day.

Just FYI, here most “professional” holidays, like Secretary Appreciation Day, Nurse Appreciation Day, Pyschologist Appreciation Day etc… are much more celebrated and EVERY profession has its special day. I like the Colombian tradition of truly celebrating the uniqueness and importance of each profession, not only teachers and professors.

So, since it is Teacher Appreciation Day here, I’d like to take the time to say “thank you” to all the wonderful teachers and professors I’ve had throughout my educational journey. There are so many teachers and learning moments that stand out when I reflect back on my time both in elementary/middle/high school as well as at the univeristy (both in Alabama and in England). I’ll tell you about a few of them…

The first thing that comes to mind is my time in Ms. Northcutt’s class where we learned to count and add up money using huge paper replicas of coins and bills. I remember we used to play a game, where the first person to tell how many of each coin and/or bill you needed to make a certain sum of money got to spend that amount of money in a “treasure store” she had in class. Boy, was I excited the day I won and got to buy a piece of treasure🙂

My week at Science Camp at Hueytown Elementary back in 1998 (I think), also stands out to me. I don’t remember all the teachers, but I do remember very vividly the time I spent with Carol Watson learning about the process of how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly by observing our very own caterpillars turn into butterflies, and learning that by pushing down harder on your crayons you didn’t leave “lines” or “marks” within your coloring.

I also remember reading an excerpt from The Diary of Anne Frank in Lin Howell’s class at Pittman Middle School. After reading the excerpt, I checked out the entire book, The Diary of Anne Frank, from the school library and read it straight away. I remember becoming a little bit obsessed with reading about holocaust survival stories, as well as trying to understand how such an atrocious abuse of human rights could have occurred. I never did understand how such a horrible thing could have happened, but reading the stories created a profound desire in me to protect and preserve the rights of all human beings…

In high school, I remember lots of moments that stand out. I remember dissecting fetal pigs with Seth Byram, Joe Riddle, and Ashlea Denham in Mrs. Shield’s class, I remember getting infuriated in my US History class and having a long discussion about Native American rights, and the lack thereof, in Mr. Clayton’s class, and I remember the day we all had to dress up as character’s from Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. However, JCIB was much more than a place of academic learning for me–JCIB and the teachers there opened my mind up to a whole new world of academic learning as well as life skills (including the acquiring of two corn snakes, Picasso & Eva, two rats, Hopper and Lady). It was also through JCIB that I made my first real job connection with McWane Science Center in Birmingham, Alabama. Although my teachers at JCIB pushed me incredibly hard, sometimes to what I thought was my breaking point, the learning experience my teachers gave me was priceless, and am extremely thankful to them for being  a part of that experience.

As far as my time at university goes… There are also lots of moments that stand out. At the University of Alabama, I can honestly say they were three professors that made a profound impact on me during my undergraduate studies: Frannie James, Steven Bunker, and William (Bill) Worden. It is because of these three professors that I was able to read the entire two parts of Don Quixote (and understand them beyond a literary context), that I was able to create incredible international friendships that continue intact today, that I was able to go in-depth in my dicussions and understandings of why Latin America is the way it is today and how the United States’ actions have affected the region… These three professors will never know how much they influenced my experience at Alabama nor how much I was able to learn from them, both in and outside the classroom.

As far as my time in Leeds, pursuing my Master’s degree, my “tutors” (as professors are called in the UK) not only taught me about the content of my Master’s course (TESOL Studies), but also showed me how different education systems in different parts of the world can be. They taught me how to be more self-taught and independent in my studies, not relying on in-class lectures or discussions, but instead to be able to read, draw my own conclusions, and synthesis the information, ultimately showing my understanding through end of the term assignments (often based heavily on personal reflection). Although learning to learn through this teaching method was difficult, it opened me up to different learning methods and teaching styles I had not been previously accustomed to. It taught me to welcome new methods, techniques, and styles of learning and teaching–something that is important not only for me as a student, but also as a professional teacher and professor.

The learning experiences I’ve mentioned have all helped to shape and mold me into the person I am today. However, the above mentioned examples of learning experiences are only a VERY small portion of all the learning experiences that make up  my total academic learning experience… And, although I’ve only mentioned a few teachers and professors, each teacher, professor, counselor, or tutor that I have had has taught me something valuable, has played a vital role in my learning experiences and to each and everyone of them I say “thank you.” Thank you for being  a part of making me the person I am today.