Some time ago in a college art class-room, the teacher, having prepared a ball of clay for each student, following roll-call, began to pitch one of those balls to each student present. When every student had received their clay, the teacher announced: “Make something beautiful of this and I’ll give you a good grade.” What a challenge. Take a ball of dirty, red clay and turn it into something beautiful. But, each of those red clay balls in a short while were shaped into all kinds of clay pottery and a week or so later, carved, glazed and fired, they were recognized as “beautiful.”
So, it is with every teacher, molders, shapers of tender, precious lives. It is an awesome assignment. More than sixty years ago I had teachers, many of them single women, whose lives were totally dedicated to skillfully shaping lives that would contribute in some way to their future family and community circles. I am probably writing this today because of an eighth grade English teacher, Miss Flamme, who demanded correctness in both written and spoken English. I will never forget her. She said, “IF would be the longest word in the dictionary, IF it had enough letters.” But I remember her most for her quiet, patient work with and on each of her eighth-grade students. She is only one of many. My seventh grade geography teacher taught me a lesson that has stood me in good stead and I don’t think it had anything to do with geography; but she was insistent that I learn who was in charge of her seventh-grade geography class and, you guessed it, it wasn’t me! Oh, how I am so thankful she was patient and persistent in her molding and mentoring.
President Ronald Reagan, in awarding a 1986 teacher of the year award to Guy Doud, quoted from the lines of Pulitzer Prize winning author , Clark Mollenhoff, the words of his poem Molders of Dreams: “Teachers, you are the molders of their dreams, the gods who build or crush their young beliefs of right or wrong; You are the spark that sets aflame the poet’s hand or lights the flame of some great singer’s song; You are the god of the young, the very young; you are the guardian of a million dreams. Your every smile or frown can heal or pierce the heart. You are a hundred lives, a thousand lives. Yours the pride of loving them, and the sorrow too. Your patient work, your touch makes you the goals of hope who fill their souls with dreams to make those dreams come true.”
So, thanks be to God for wonderful, dedicated teachers. It may have been a kind touch, a word fitly spoken, a glance of approval or disapproval or just a faithful, dutiful exercise of responsibility day after day in the classrooms of life that a teacher or many teachers directed our way that impacted our lives unalterably for good. May God bless them and may new generations of talented, trusty tribes of teachers rise up for our children and grandchildren so that they will benefit as did we!