Mrs. McCarty had this contest.
It was 4th grade, and it was me or Carey Corbett, and the idea was to see how many of Florida’s counties we could name. We tied. Then we had to name the county seats. Carey won. But I gave her a heck of a fight. We read a Land Remembered and studied the Seminole Wars and Flagler and Plant. It was that year that I realized that I loved Florida, that I understood her, that she came easy to me.
Mrs. Long accompanied us to the PEER center, a local wildlife rehab facility.
The first pine snake I’d ever seen, a scavenger hunt through the boardwalked swamp. As a 6th grader I possessed only a handful of real skills: I could blush on demand within 50 feet of Jessica George; I could recite the batting averages of the ’84 Cubs; and I felt at home in the woods. My teacher saw that, and encouraged it in me.
Mr. Partain complemented me on the in depth project I did on wood ducks, and another on bobwhite quail. Mrs. Turner encouraged me to write the way I wanted; sure, I’d need to write to a standard to pass the tests in other classes, but she told me not to lose my own voice. Mr. McGuire told us to chase what we loved, and to always have fun, to never stop being who we were supposed to be.
Mrs. Kurz placed the roots of math that I would never use, but that helped sprout logic and reason. Mrs. Hough talked about her love for Florida’s barrier islands. Mrs. Ordian taught discipline, my first “D” in an elective, for failing to practice the violin up to her standards.
Mrs. Brantley. Mrs. Carpenter. Mrs. Buckley and Zotti and Parker. Mrs. Farthing, who encouraged my writing more than anyone I’d ever met.
Looking back, I don’t know if any of my teachers hunted, or fished, or had any impetus to affect conservation in any way. I don’t know if they cared about water quality and hunter recruitment and seatrout regulations, about nutrient loading and spray plans and migratory birds.
The butterfly effect is this bizarre idea predicated off the premise that a buttefly flaps its wings in Africa, and 2 months later a storm hits Florida . . . In simplest terms, it’s long term cause and effect.
I don’t know if my teachers knew the long term effects they’d have on a scrawny 11 year old, a clumsy 13 year old, an awkward 15 year old . . .
But they did.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of one of these teachers, some lesson they taught, now rote behavior.
As a dad, I recognize even more the importance of what goes on for 7 hours every day. There’s never been a more important time to be a teacher . . .
To those who get up every morning at the crack of dawn, and plant themselves in a garden they’ll never see . . . day after day, year after year, student after student . . . to those who poured into that crazy kid all those years ago or pour themselves into his crazy kids today . . .
“Thank you” doesn’t quite seem enough . . . We can only hope you know how much it means . . .