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Laura Barringer, our daughter, finished her school year of teaching yesterday. She’s a first grade teacher in the area. Public school teachers go at it, more or less, from the middle of August to the middle of June. We owe a lot to our public school teachers, and this might be a good time to write them a note and tell them. I should know about public school teachers, my family is full of them.
Here’s my question: What was the most significant thing you learned from a public school teacher?
My wife’s great grandmother, whom I know simply by the name “Grandma Burgess,” was a superintendent of schools in Western Iowa in the early 1900s. You might say she was a pioneer in more than one way: out in the prairies of Iowa, which were still largely prairies when I drove through them a few years back and in no appearance of making any new moves, and she was also a pioneer as a female leader in the days when females weren’t very often assigned such vocations.
Kris’ grandmother, Grandma Mabel, was a home economics teacher, a graduate of Iowa State (whatever it was called then), and she taught away for years and years and years in Western Iowa. When I came to know her, she was retired and working at Morningside College.
Kris’ father was a high school coach (he won the State in basketball in Iowa in the mid-50s and then promptly moved to Illinois, to Freeport, where he entered my story). He was my sophomore Driver’s Education teacher (classroom), became the Athletic Director at our high school, and is still a legend for his coaching prowess.
My father was my Driver’s Education teacher (behind the wheel), and was an English teacher at Freeport and then settled into being mostly a Driver’s Education teacher. He darted off for a year or two to early retirement, thought better of it and returned back to Freeport, and resumed some English teaching — and the differences between his early days in the 50s and 60s and teaching in the 80s were a little more than he bargained for.
My uncle Charles was a music teacher in southern Illinois his entire adult life, but I think he found as much joy in leading the choir at church as he did teaching kids music.
My sister-in-law, Pat Arnet, and her husband, Bob, are high school teachers at Bartlett High School, in the western burbs of Chicago. Pat coaches basketball and teaches “PE” and Bob, a former cross country and track coach, teaches Biology and Science.
One of Kris’s brothers, Pete Norman, is the AD and basketball coach of a hugely successful program in Freeport at Highland Community College. I’m not quite sure what Pete teaches, but I’m guessing it has a lot to do with PE and basketball.
Which brings me back to Laura, one of whose students gave her tickets to a night game for the Chicago Cubs! She’s the only one in the current generation of kids in this family that is teaching, and it does not appear that Kari, Pat and Bob’s daughter, is planning to be a teacher. But, the good news is that Lukas’s wife, Annika, is about to finish an education program in Western NY so she can teach.
Well, I’m the apostate: instead of public school teaching, I teach in a college. At one time I thought about teaching high school a lot, and I thought I’d teach German, but the Lord had other plans for me. And I’m glad he did, but I think this family of teaching rubbed off on me.
As the line goes: If you can read, thank a public school teacher. (And that’s just the beginning of what we learned from them.)
[This is a re-post from last year.]

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