It is National Teacher Day! Let’s take a few moments to think about special teachers who have influenced our lives and the lives of our children.
My favorite teacher from my elementary school was Mrs. Portia Paterson of Public School 116 in Queens, New York. Mrs. Paterson was my third grade teacher, and even though third grade was a ridiculously long time ago for me, I can still easily remember her warm, sweet nature, her expectations of best efforts and success from her students, and how much I looked forward to every day in her class. She was (and still is) married to attorney Basil Paterson, a New York City and State political leader. Basil Paterson was a colleague and friend of my late father, and it was especially thrilling to see Mrs. Paterson every once in a while away from school. Mrs. Paterson was my first African-African teacher, and she and her husband were great role models for our third grade class. I still run into her every so often now and it is still thrilling to see her and give her a hug. Thanks Mrs. Paterson!
Ms. Eliza Kuberska of Hunter College High School immediately comes to mind when I think about my children’s special teachers. She was my daughter’s seventh grade honors math teacher. Ms. Kuberska LOVES math, and her enthusiasm for the subject and her students was unending and irresistible. She is Polish, and while her command of English was flawless, her quick wit was delivered with an adorable accent. I went to see her to talk about a segment of the class my daughter was struggling with, and to talk generally about how we could help my daughter feel less anxious about taking tests (and do better on them). After I poured out my concerns about quelling my daughter’s anxiety, Ms. Kuberska responded with a mischievous grin: “I know what I must do. I must make more scary tests! Lots of scary tests. This will be good for her.” She smiled at my horrified expression (this certainly was not the answer I was looking for) and explained that if she gave more tests, the import of each would be less, and the class would be less focused on the grades and more on mastering the material. By learning to tackle and conquer “scary tests”‘ (which they would go over in great detail during and after class), she explained, it would give my daughter the confidence to approach difficult looking new material.
I walked away from that conversation convinced I had succeeded in dashing any hope my daughter had in improving in math. More scary tests–yikes. But Ms. Kuberska was right. She cheerily gave the class more tests and quizzes, assuring them that the goal was to learn, and that they were being given more chances to make sure they understood the material. With her help and enthusiastic support, my daughter succeeded in her math class. Thanks in part to those scary tests, she went on to excel in honors math throughout high school. It was a pleasure to watch Ms. Kuberska in action. Thanks Ms. Kuberska!
GCP readers, in honor of National Teacher Day, tell us about your favorite teachers. The favorites you had and the ones you loved for your children. We want to hear your stories! And if you are in your son’s (or daughter’s) school today, make a special effort to greet and thank a teacher whom you admire and appreciate. As we all know, their work is vitally important and invaluable.