An Apple for the Teacher

Since September is Back-to-School Month, here’s a salute to my teaching colleagues:

For caring deeply for your students,

For sacrificially devoting yourselves to their well-being,

For taking criticism for things that aren’t always your fault (low test scores, poor student performance, etc.)

And for being willing to work for a pittance when you could be more financially secure, God bless you!

SS, Country Cousin and former teacher


Apples for the Teacher  . . .

By Sharon Sheppard

I feel proud and blessed to have taught college students for 18 ½ years.  I started as a rookie in the middle of the year when an experienced teacher quit.  I don’t think I have ever been more frightened in my life than I was that first day (okay, that first year) when I stood in front of a different class of students each hour of every school day and tried to pretend I knew how to teach English.

But I can say it was the most challenging and fun and demanding and rewarding job I’ve ever had.  Fortunately, I was married to a fellow English major and college faculty member who trained student teachers, so I’d go home each evening and discuss my day.  As my biggest fan, he patiently taught me how to teach.

He once told me that my greatest asset was that I loved my students and they knew it.  “They will forgive you anything if they know you love them.”

Part of my position included coaching students for speech contests.   After tryouts, I warned those who’d been chosen to compete that they would have to work long and hard.  Contest rules required that speeches be memorized word-for-word, and we rehearsed every gesture and nuance until I felt confident that each contestant was ready for state competition.

One of my contestants was a farm girl who had trouble pronouncing her th sounds, and who was heavier than she would have liked.  But she was smart and determined, and she worked hard to prepare.  I went to Minneapolis to attend the awards dinner, and when the six finalists for the speech contest were announced, Rose’s name was among them.

Awards were presented Olympic-style with platform levels elevated according to rank.  The finalists assembled on the stage, and when second place was called and it wasn’t Rose, the group from our college went wild.

Rose gracefully climbed to the topmost level, and our students began chanting her name.  Tears streamed down her face as she made her way back to our table, clutching her first-place trophy.  Too moved to say anything to me, she plucked a carnation from the centerpiece and laid it in my lap.  She went on to win first place at the nationals, as well.

Jim was a veteran and a paraplegic.  He was older than some of the other students, and his maturity and experience made him a respected asset, especially during class discussions.  On one occasion he and I were to sit together at the head table for a school event.  When it came time to be seated, he wheeled over and helped me with my chair.  I should have been helping him—this man who had sacrificed much for our country.  But what a sweet and gallant gesture from one of our country’s finest!

Not long ago I received a welcome email from Dave, a student I had in class many years ago.  It said, “I heard on the radio that today is Hug a Teacher Day.  Though I can’t be there to deliver this hug in person to my favorite teacher—consider yourself hugged.”

The days of bringing apples to the teacher are long passed, but I’ll take a carnation, a gallant gesture, or a virtual hug in place of an apple any day.

Copyrighted © 2015, Sharon Sheppard