Those born with the gift to teach others effect the world in ways which can never be measured. Good teachers mold us from the very beginning. Their words stick with us throughout our entire lives and resurface in corners of our brains at those times when we need to hear them most. Those special educators make us work, they make us think, they make us question…they make us see opportunities for ourselves we never thought possible.
My first teacher was my mom. She taught English for 36 years at Salem Community High School. Even though I never sat in her classroom, she taught me life lessons I will never forget. I can still hear the words she would say to me on a regular basis growing up, and now I hear myself saying them to my own daughters – “You can do anything you put your mind to.” And you know what? I have. In school, in my career and in life I’ve done things that I put my mind to. My husband and I put our minds to taking this family on a life-changing adventure around the world and here we are doing it.
Teachers are powerful. Like my mom, they may not be our teachers in the conventional sense of the word, but we learn from them just the same. If we’re lucky, we can think of a number of teachers who impacted our lives in a very significant ways. This family considers ourselves extremely fortunate to have a long list of educators who’ve shaped us over the years. Tish Long, Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Ashby, Mrs. Holt, Delaine Donaldson, Mary McDonald, Keri Randolph, Edna Varner, Dr. Tony Donen, Rick Smith, Ms. Tym, Ms. Laugherty, Ms. Tipton, Ms. Hammett, Lindsey Keith, Mr. Drescher, Ma Booth…the Carisch family is talking to you! Thank you! Thank you for the myriad of ways you’ve helped us become the people we’re supposed to be.
I, on the other hand, am not a teacher. It was not my calling. I went to business school, became a technology consultant and pursued a path which seemed very different from the education sector. Yet, as luck would have it, I had the opportunity to bring my business skills into the world of education. Over several years of work in the STEM initiative, I absorbed knowledge and experience from insightful educators I can now call both mentors and friends.
Recently I had the opportunity to share some of that knowledge gained from these innovative teachers. I presented a session at JWOC, an organization providing free classes to the Cambodian community. I talked about practices such as outdoor learning, group work and independent problem-solving. In developing the presentation for this training session I realized just how much I’d absorbed from the talented educators I’ve had the privilege to work with in recent years. I only hope this session was even a tiny fraction as influential on these teachers as the people inspiring it have been on me. They’ve made me a better professional, a better parent and a better person. I’m sure the young educators leading English, science and technology classes at JWOC will someday have former students saying the same thing about them.