It is appropriate that these celebrations are days away from each other — every mom is a teacher, really, and the National Center for Education Statistics estimates 76% of teachers are women. You’ve played both roles with passion and grace throughout my life, so it’s no coincidence that both Sara and I ended up in teaching.
You modeled a love of books so masterfully that I was convinced I could read Jane Eyre at age 3
As a mom, you exemplified what it means to love learning, in and out of school. Each summer, you shuttled us to the library on the first day of vacation and encouraged us to borrow as many books as we could carry (and we did). When you woke us up at three in the morning to watch a meteor shower, or dented the bumper of your car trying to get us a closer look at a wild turkey, we learned to appreciate the science all around us. I’ll never forget the summer experiments making sunprints in the front yard, or collecting only the best and brightest autumn leaves to preserve them before they crumbled (my partner still doesn’t really understand why you sent us leaves in the mail last October). Remember how sometimes friends showed up at our house for school project supplies because they knew “Momma G” would have pipe cleaners and hot glue guns ready for action?
Sometimes you say, “I know I’m not a real teacher…” when we’re discussing education policy, and I can’t begin tell you how wrong you are. You can’t go to our hometown grocery store without being surrounded by kiddos and their parents shouting “Mrs. Kathy,” like Glinda the Good Witch surrounded by the munchkins in Oz. They love you because you pushed them to explore, to question, to create. You even teach a class called “Let’s Get Messy” — there is nothing more revolutionary than encouraging young people to make mistakes by making a mess. You bring endless curiosity to the preschool baking, science, and art classes you teach, despite low pay and lack of access to resources. In fact, one of my favorite memories of you is hearing your purse clank and rattle as you bolted from the garden at a strip mall where you had taken perfectly smooth stones for your students to paint as a project. A teacher’s resourcefulness knows no bounds.
I asked Dad about his funniest memories of you collecting materials for classes, and he reminded me of the time he cut his feet at the beach trying to find you perfect shells for a lesson in marine biology, or when he scaled the side of our house to get you an abandoned bird’s nest so you could show your class how it was constructed. When you’ve thought of just the right craft or project to connect your kids to Van Gogh, the constellations, or the science of baking, the sparkle in your eye is contagious, and you’ve brought us all along for the ride.
I find myself mimicking you when I engage with young children, from kneeling on the floor so I can be at their level and help them feel comfortable to asking lots of questions instead of giving answers. I hope to have half the impact on young people over my career that you’ve had in your 20+ years of innovative teaching.
I love you, and the googly eyes and glitter that cover the floor of your car. You’ve taught me more than I can express, and the kids of Guilford are lucky indeed.
I love you, momma.
P.S. Don’t get mad at me for publishing this on the internet! You can’t ground me anymore 😉