I am writing from beautiful Tampa Bay today, while my heart is back at Tulsa Adventist Academy.
Okay for throw back Thursday we are going to throw it way, way, back! Its 1975 at Tulsa Adventist Academy . Oklahoma City is not known for the Thunder but it has a nice zoo. John Erling is waking Tulsans up every morning on KRMG, telling them to ski the Tulsa mountains. We are having our classes in the Sabbath School rooms in the church across the parking lot, while new classrooms are being built along with a new gym.
On this particular morning, I am sitting with my third and fourth grade class, listening to a lecture given by our teachers, Mrs. Sharon Krueger, and Miss Peggy Fisher. I don’t really remember what we did wrong this time. I vaguely remember it may have had something to do with, where did we all hide the score sheets, or chalk and erasers or Jimmy Hoffa. Actually there is only one thing that I remember vividly from the lecture, as if it was yesterday. While Miss Fisher was trying to set us all straight, she told us,
“If you only learn one thing from us this year, we want you to always remember that we love you.”
Funny. I remember that! Actually that is the only thing I do remember from that talk that day or even the whole day itself. In the fourth grade I was already clamoring for acceptance. I really knew nothing about football at that point, but all the other guys in my class were all talking football so I wanted to join in and sound cool. “I can’t wait for this Sunday” I said. “Why?” The other boys asked. “Because the Dallas Cowboys are playing the Oklahoma Sooners!” I answered, not thinking ahead on how quickly that lie would be found out. I just made it up to have something to add to the conversation. Of course the other boys made me feel like a fool when they quickly told me they are not even in the same league or level. A lie I thought would get me “in” just made me look stupid and ignorant.
Welcome Back Kotter, was a popular sitcom at the time, and at the end of each show, Kotter, played by Gabe Kaplan, would tell a joke to his wife. I decided I was a comedian, and announced to Miss Fisher that I would have a joke to tell each day at lunch. Problem is I didn’t know any jokes, and making them up as I went along did not amuse the kids or the teachers.
So you can imagine, what good news it was that I was loved. I didn’t have to make up lies anymore to be accepted. I didn’t have to make up witty jokes to be liked. I was loved. I was accepted just the way I was.
Miss Fisher taught me more than just that I was loved, but that is the one thing I remember. By being loved I did not have to spend all my time thinking of silly jokes and lies to tell, and I could now focus confidently on my school subjects. I hated diagramming and structuring sentences back then. How was I to know back in 1975 how important that would be, and that I would be writing sermons and blog posts and lessons and devotionals for a living? How was I suppose to know that I would be substitute teaching at another TAA, Tampa Adventist Academy 40 years later, and would meet a kid like me, who really did not want to spend their time structuring sentences, but I would assure them how important it is. How did I know back in the fourth grade that one day I would be teaching my regular weekly Bible class at Tampa Adventist Academy, and would meet students who’s greatest need was knowing that they are loved and accepted so they can behave and learn?
In Miss Fisher’s 40+ years of teaching and working in the education field, I am not the only young person she has mentored. In addition to Tulsa Adventist Academy, places like Parkview in Oklahoma City, and Gentry, Arkansas, and Philadelphia, PA and Valley Grande Academy in Wesleco Texas benefited greatly from her teaching and mentoring. She has also served as educational superintended in New England and the Rocky Mountain SDA conferences, among other places. Later she returned to where her passion lies, in the classroom, at Gold Coast SDA school in Oregon.
Its teachers appreciation week, and I want to thank all of my teachers for mentoring and teaching me. I realize now, as a teacher-Bible Instructor, that teachers get paid regardless if the kids learn or not. The passion teachers pour into their jobs and into their kids is not for a paycheck. They could care less and still get a check. Teachers go the extra mile and often times make themselves unpopular in doing so because they care. They care so much, that their popularity and approval rating does not matter to them as much as making sure students succeed. If you have to occasionally make a student or even parent dislike you in order to make them successful then so be it!
In the fourth grade I had Miss Fisher pushing me and encouraging me to do my best, all the time assuring me, no matter how bad my test scores were, or corny my jokes were, or how little I knew about football, I was always loved and accepted. Today she is on my Facebook cheering me on, liking all my corny comments, and sending me notes on how proud she is of me.
Well today Miss Peggy Fisher, we want you to know, from Philadelphia, PA to the Gold Coast of Oregon just how proud we are of you! For over 40 years you have taught and prepared us for practical living by teaching us Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, as well as preparing us to thrive emotionally, by stressing while you were teaching, that you really did care. Today I know even more just how much you care. You don’t get paid to care about me anymore, but You still do in every conversation or email that we share.
Auto correct can fix misspelled words but it can’t make a kid feel special. Google can give you facts and information, but it can’t make you feel accepted, and give you a sense of belonging in the world. Thank God for teachers who do more than just teach. They care!
Miss Fisher, I know you are retiring from the classroom, but your passion for learning and mentoring continues. Its not your job. Its you. Enjoy your retirement and THANK YOU A MILLION TIMES!
Miss Peggy Fisher