I was, this past Saturday evening, asked to speak at a local community organization. The topic of the evening was the recognition of an outstanding local teacher. Mrs. Amy Warrington, a teacher at ARC Gatway Pearl Nelson Center, was the honoree.
I was asked to give some remarks for this occasion, and I put together a brief speech about what excellent teachers have meant to me in my lifetime, and more importantly what great teachers mean to all of their students. After I was given an extremely generous introduction and welcome (which I did not expect)--here were my remarks:
I am Jeff Bergosh, District 1 Representative of the Escambia County School Board. Before I begin my brief remarks, I want to thank Mr. James Parker of Lodge 15 for the gracious invitation to speak at this function.
We are here to honor outstanding teacher Mrs. Ann Marie Warrington.
Congratulations to you Mrs. Warrington.
Because we are honoring a teacher, I will give a few of my thoughts about what great teachers have meant to me in my life.
My family was quite mobile as I grew up, and before I entered college my brother and I had attended 17 different schools in five different states and overseas in Japan. My brother and I were adopted the year I turned ten, and my life to that point had been challenging. But even during my most challenging days, I was always fortunate to have teachers in my life that cared. In my experience growing up, Teachers touched my life.
Whether it was Mrs. Nancy Bacon, my 2nd grade teacher at Lexington Elementary School in El Cajon, California, --who was loving, kind and gracious while reading stories to me- such that I can still remember her warm smile all these years later.
Or Geoff Fong, My 8th Grade math teacher at Nile C. Kinnick School in Yokosuka, Japan, who would impart basketball strategy to me after my math lesson. He knew I played intramural basketball and he also knew, because I told him, that I struggled at it.
Or, Mrs. Georganne McDonald, my fifth grade teacher from Sherwood Elementary School, who issued me a “D” letter grade in citizenship and, by proxy, taught me a lesson about just how mad my parents could get!
(That “D” haunted me for years—and my parents’ response-- let’s just say it “got my attention”!)
But the final teacher I’ll mention will always hold a special place in my memory.
John Webb, may god rest his soul, my 12th grade band teacher right here in Pensacola at Pensacola High School, spent countless hours with me after school working on improving my skills on the guitar, bass guitar, and Alto Saxophone. Mr. Webb was just an outstanding individual. Mr. Webb passed away a number of years ago, far too early. Because he passed on, I never had the opportunity to tell him how important he was in my life. I did send him a graduation announcement the year I graduated from College, and I always wondered what he thought about that. I’m sure he was happy, but I regret that I never again had the opportunity to see him and say “Thanks, Mr. Webb”
He would never know just how profound an impact he made on my life when he singled me out as the “most improved” musician in Jazz Band class at the end of my senior year of High School. It was an unexpected moment in my life I will never forget—and I’ll always cherish. That one moment of praise and affirmation was the impetus for my quest for a bachelor’s degree in Music. Mr. Webb left an impression on me, no question about it;
But great teachers do that. Great teachers leave a lasting impression. And I was fortunate to have the benefit of several outstanding teachers in my life. To any teachers in attendance this evening—thank you for what you do, the great things you do for your students—because your students feel it I guarantee you that. They feel a connection to you that is strong.
—I know this from personal experiences---I always felt a connection to the great teachers whose classes I attended, because great teachers stand out.
Principals recognize great teachers, parents know great teachers when they see them, but most importantly—the students know and can appreciate greatness in the classroom—because great teachers have many traits in common:
Great Teachers care about kids, and their kids know this and remember this.
Great Teachers give. Great teachers give, and give, and give. Then, when more is needed, a great teacher steps up and gives more.
Great teachers don’t “punch the clock”—great teachers put in the time and resources necessary to ensure their students succeed.
Great teachers do not need a contract to specify to them what time they can leave each day, or what time they must be at work by, or how many breaks they get, or the number of after-school events they must contractually attend per school year. Great teachers look past the politics of the profession and simply do what is necessary.
Great teachers become teachers for the right reasons.
Great Teachers that I have known enter the profession because they love kids and want to impart knowledge and wisdom to these children, their students.
Everybody knows that teachers are underpaid, often times over-worked, and too-many times underappreciated. Teachers are often blamed for the failures of the PARENTS of their students, or the failures of the policies of lawmakers, or for the failures of society in general.
But great teachers persevere and do not sully themselves in the minutia of this or that.
Great teachers find a way to accomplish their mission, as best they can, with the resources they have.
Mrs. Warrington, as I close out my comments this evening, I want to say this---to be singled out for recognition this evening tells me you are doing things right, and making a difference for your students. Please keep up the good work because now more than ever your students need you.
Congratulations to you again on your award and recognition this evening, and I hope tonight’s recognition inspires you to continue to do what you do for many, many years to come.
Thank you, and good evening.
I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.