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Nicholas Clement: Celebrate your Legendary Teacher with a tribute
Tucson Opinion

Nicholas Clement: Celebrate your Legendary Teacher with a tribute

The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

Sixty-three years ago, I couldn’t wait to walk down to my best friend’s Terry’s house on my way to school. The road took a sharp bend right before Terry’s beautiful white farmhouse and had a jungle-like canopy created from the oak and maple trees. Funny the details you notice when you are 68 versus 5.

I walked this path every day to school and never noticed or appreciated the canopy. Trees were not important to my 5-year-old memory banks. On the flip side, Miss Ringle’s afternoon kindergarten class was strongly linked to my feelings, creating vivid memories with lots of detail.

Terry and I would always arrive early and hide from Miss Ringle in the hallway. We stood tall and squeezed into a small crevice attempting to be as quiet as two 5-year-old boys could muster.

We arrived early for a few reasons. Best selection of Tonka trucks to run around the classroom but most important, Miss Ringle’s caring and loving smile. Every day she would act like she couldn’t find us and would make us feel like we were the only students in her afternoon kindergarten class.

She never raised her voice, yet we knew when she wanted us to settle down. She knew the importance of play before play was scientifically supported with research. Miss Ringle gave us opportunities to explore our strengths. The holiday program included our class dressing in pajamas singing “Up on the Housetop” on the big stage. Eventually, I discovered I am tone-deaf, but Miss Ringle made me feel like I was Dean Martin.

I can picture Miss Ringle’s classroom, including the table where I sat, doing art. I admit, I defied Miss Ringle and ate some of the paste. I can also locate on my mental map where I put my nap mat. Special new foam material because I was allergic to feathers.

I still have my kindergarten finger paintings. Miss Ringle appreciated my art more than my parents. You might think they were preserved because my parents put them in expensive frames and stored them in a temperature-controlled vault, but they were in a box in a closet where I threw all my work from school.

I often wonder how I can recall these kindergarten details from 63 years ago and yet can’t find the cellphone that I had in my hand 30 minutes earlier. The answer is the power and influence of my legendary teacher, Miss Ringle. Her warm, gentle and always supportive teaching ruled the day and my memories.

I’m guessing this piece has triggered thoughts of your own legendary teacher and you are amazed at how quickly you are remembering those experiences.

Maybe it was your fifth grade teacher who steered you toward a career in science through experiments, always requiring safety googles and gloves. Remember the first time you lit the Bunsen burner?

Or your track coach who gave you a big smile of approval then moved the high jump bar up after you’d spent the entire practice knocking the bar off and finally clearing your personal best height.

It might be your eighth grade English teacher who knew you were a better story writer than you did. She encouraged you to write for your heart, not for a grade.

This is the reason I started Legendary Teacher Day eight years ago. Legendary Teacher Day is Sept. 23. You can celebrate Legendary Teacher Day by contacting your Legendary Teacher and telling your own “Miss Ringle” story. You can also post tributes at the the website.

I regret not contacting Miss Ringle before she passed away and telling her what a huge influence she had on my life. At the time, you may not have realized the huge difference your legendary teacher was making in your future life. You do now.

Nicholas Clement is the former superintendent of the Flowing Wells Unified School District and the current Ernest W. McFarland citizen’s chair in education with Northern Arizona University.

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