Letters to the Editor 6/21/18
THANK YOU, TEACHERS
For the past three weeks or so, I have felt a tug on my heart to rise up and recognize our teachers and the critical role that they play in charting the course of young lives. It may be because I spent 15 years as a teacher before leaving to start my business. Or perhaps because (as I told someone recently) when I left the field of education in 1984, I didn’t leave teaching. I’ll always be a teacher in my heart.
A year or so ago, my wife (who is also a former teacher) received a brief and cautious email from a former student who obviously wasn’t certain that she was the right person they were trying to contact. It said simply: “Were you a teacher at Hay-Edwards?”
My wife: “Yes, I was. Were you a student?”
Then the enthusiasm: “Yay! Ms. McGee! I was in your third-grade class in approximately 1979, maybe? I just wanted to tell you what an impact you were on my life during that time. You made school fun for me and you paid attention to me. I wore hearing aids and you helped me practice my speech. You always looked me in the eyes. I still remember spending a week trying to say rhinoceros. Thank you for believing in me and for taking the time to teach me and for treating me like I matter to you.”
My wife: “Oh, I think I remember you. Did you have short dark hair and wear glasses? Thank you so much for taking the time to look me up and say ‘thank you.’ It means a lot to me. I have been out of teaching for about 10 years. I miss it in only some ways. I miss the real teaching: Helping people succeed. Thank you again.”
Student: “Yes, that was me. Thank you, Ms. McGee.”
While I share this story primarily as a recognition of and encouragement to teachers, it is a message that all of us who have occasion to work with children or youth need to hear because this story illustrates the essence of why you do what you do. In it, we see how almost 40 years after the seeds were sown and a spark ignited, the fruit is still being born today.
Having lost my dad at the age of 12, I am a living witness to the effect that it can have on a child’s life to hear the words “good job” or “I knew you could do it” or “I like that” from a teacher, coach or a youth worker. So I just want to say (again) to all of you who teach or work with children or youth: This is why you do what you do. On behalf of all of us who at some critical point in our lives were influenced by a teacher: Thank you!
My hope is that every day that you spend in your role as a leader of children or youth, you will be inspired to light a spark in the life of another child or fan the flame that has been ignited.
WHY PRESERVE Y?
I was disappointed upon reading Bruce Rushton’s latest column regarding the old YMCA building at Fourth and Cook streets (“Don’t touch that building!,” Illinois Times, June 14). Rushton seems to favor demolition, and he scoffs at the arguments of those who seek preservation. However, preservationists have valid concerns which should not be scorned or ridiculed. The key problem with demolition is that it creates an eyesore, as the debris remains there for awhile. The replacement structure, if there is one, takes time to create, and we are often left with a vacant lot.
After the old YWCA was torn down, there were mounds of dirt at the construction site. While walking by there, I considered taking some pictures. Would those in the convention and visitors’ bureau care to include such photos in their tourist brochures? People from all over the world come to Springfield to see historic sites and architectural beauty. They do not come to see wreckage and debris. The Y sits at a busy intersection and is clearly visible to those who drive by. It is also structurally sound and still usable for its original purpose.
Tourists bring business and tax revenue to our town. We don’t want to let them down with stupid decisions.