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Contributions of Teachers

Since the fourth grade, I have loved learning.  Adding to my knowledge -- through courses in a traditional classroom settings and disciplined
self-study --  has been a source of great pleasure throughout my life.  Since my sophomore year in high school, communication particularly through the written word has been a focus of my study and work life.  I thank my fourth grade and high school sophomore English teachers for these parts of my life.  Each teacher demanded more from me than I was giving -- or even thought I could give -- to learning and writing

Going into the fourth grade, I underestimated my ability as a student, concluding that I was at best average if not below average.  My scholastic performance reflected the estimation.  It progressively slid until I had been assigned to the slowest learning groups in reading, writing, and arithmetic into which the fourth grade class was divided.  Miss Wilderman, puzzled by my performance, decided she should discuss it with my parents.  She sent a note home with me asking them to meet with her about my work.   For me, both the request for the meeting and the discussion including me, my mother, and my teacher was embarrassing and shameful.

Miss Wilderman wondered: "Did Bobby have a learning disability?" "Was he lazy?"

I left the meeting determined to prove I was neither retarded nor lackadaisical.  Within in a few weeks, my performance had soared and I found myself studying in the advanced learning groups.  In the process, I discovered I not only had the capacity to learn, but employing the capacity could be fun.  Learning has continued to be an enjoyable experience for me ever since.

When I reached high school, I had confidence in my capacity as a student, but a D grade on my first English theme as a sophomore caused me to question my ability as a writer.  Until then, I thought I had a way with words and could dash off a minor theme with little thought.  Mrs. Brown forced me to discover and appreciate the discipline that writing is.   I labored over the next theme for her class, seeking to give her what she was looking for in a written piece -- a thesis colorfully developed and articulated.  She awarded my next theme a B which gave me the confidence I needed to continue polishing my writing skills.   Mrs. Brown taught me -- and I still sometimes have to be reminded of her lesson -- that clear thinking precedes clear writing.

Mrs. Brown's lesson proved an important turning point in my life.   In high school, I went on to become sports editor of the newspaper and yearbook.    I pursued a journalism major as an undergraduate student in college. My careers -- first in public relations and now in emergency management -- have demanded seasoned communication skills grounded in facility with the written word.  

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