Few people have impact of teachers

Thursday, September 1, 2005

Think back to your days in school. Think about your favorite teacher ... or teachers. Think about the difference they have made in your life.

Then, whenever the opportunity presents itself, tell others your story. Let them know the importance of a teacher's lessons ... and example ... in shaping the future of students.

"A teacher touches lives forever," says Kathy Latta, the principal at East Ward and McCook Elementary School. The teacher's influence is understandable, in part because of the great amount of time that they spend with pupils each day.

"When you think about it in terms of waking hours," says Principal Jerry Smith of McCook High School, "the teacher is with students more than a third of the time between September and May." And, in many cases, teachers' time with young people is greater than that. "With activities, teachers are sometimes with young people from 8 in the morning to 7 or 8 at night," he said.

And it doesn't end there. McCook Junior High Principal Dennis Berry points out that teachers not only occupy influential roles at school, but they also are called upon as Sunday school teachers, choir directors, coaches and members of community organizations.

In other words, the teacher's role goes far beyond academics. Smith was well aware of that this spring and summer when he interviewed prospective teachers. "What you discover in the selection of teachers is that 'Who they are,' is more important than 'What they know.' Many have good resumes, but what sets the good ones apart are their attitudes and how much they want to work with kids."

Principal Ellen Griffin of St. Patrick's School makes another point about teachers that is sometimes overlooked. "Teachers are not only role models for students," she said, "they are also role models for parents and others in the community."

She makes an excellent point. Through education and experience, teachers develop ethical and responsible methods of guidance and mentoring. Their example of leadership provides a model for others in the community.

The McCook area has been fortunate over the years to have had so many outstanding teachers. The record of teaching excellence continues this year with the 111 teachers in the McCook Public School System; the 28 teachers at St. Patrick's School and the 20 full-time instructors at McCook Community College.

The teachers represent less than 5 percent of the town's total population; yet their contributions -- of time, talent and motivation -- are of immense and long-lasting proportions.

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