Heroes of the classroom


I’ve been thinking about heroes lately.

A hero may be your basic, everyday hero: the neighbor who plows out your driveway after a snowstorm without even a phone call to ask if he can bring over his big John Deere with the loader bucket, the old family friend who stops by with two $20 bills to help out with the cost of going to see your ill brother in another state, the friend who comes over with two kinds of ice cream after your oral surgery.

Those folks have all been my heroes at one time or another, whether they realized it or not.

Some heroes are of the flashier type: military heroes whose actions helped win the war, for instance, or the hero I just read about who stopped at the scene of a traffic accident to pull a victim out of a car that exploded seconds later. Such heroes as those are the ones who may win a medal for their bravery above and beyond the call of duty.

Maybe a hero is simply one who shows up at the right time at the right place. And then does something about it.

It’s fitting to consider what it means to be a hero, since this is National Teacher Appreciation Week. Most of us have had a teacher who was our hero at one time, someone who made a lasting impression.

That could be more likely to happen in elementary school. While I remember all of my teachers at that level, it was Mrs. Arendts in second grade who was special to me. She certainly was an old-line, no-nonsense, learn-the-basics teacher, but we had fun in her classroom, too. I knew she cared. One could say she was my hero at the time when I was seven years old.

I can’t say that my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Holstrum, was as much of a hero to me. But she moved up in my personal ranks when her daughter gave her a copy of the book I self-published some years back. Mrs. Holstrum sent me a note to tell me how much she enjoyed it and that she was always glad to know when her former students turned out to be successful.

My grandmother was a teacher, so maybe that’s why I see teachers as heroes even though she was never my teacher. When I have met former country school students of hers over the years, I have made it a point to ask them what kind of teacher she was, and they all gave her glowing marks. One of them told me that her students all knew she cared.

As we consider our teachers who became our heroes, perhaps it is as Karl Menninger put it: “What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.”