It's Elementary!

by Jamie Forrest

Who influenced you? January 21, 2011

This week for my class, we were to create something about a person that has influenced who we are as teachers and as people.  There were a lot of people who have shaped who I am.  First, my parents.  Then, my band directors, my friends, my colleagues, my husband and my inlaws.  Of course, my teachers had a huge influence on who I am.  There was one teacher who had a particular influence on me.  This is his story:



High school wasn’t a happy place for me.  I didn’t really fit in.  There were 125 people in my graduating class and about 100 were a part of the “in” group, at least in my eyes.  I had one really good friend with whom I fought on and off.  The other 23 people spoke to me, but I really didn’t fit in with them either.  I was involved in a lot of things, though, so at least I filled up my time.  But, I wasn’t happy.


One of those activities I was involved with was the SRC.  I was treasurer, a teacher appointed position. The teacher who was responsible for this position was a superhero in my eyes.  He was the math teacher, a subject I was enamoured with.  He even wrote the textbook for our class!  He was tough as nails and wouldn’t budge an inch for marks with students who didn’t try in his class but for those who tried, whether they “got it” or not, he would spend hours and hours trying to get them through the course.  He gave praise where praise was due and without putting anyone down, showed his disappointment where it was needed.  He was the embodiment of these lines from Taylor Mali’s poem “What a Teacher Makes:”

“I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.
I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional medal of honor
and an A- feel like a slap in the face.
How dare you waste my time with anything less than your very best.”

He was also the first person who got me seriously thinking about being a teacher.  I had always said that I wanted to be a teacher, but I had not, until meeting this man, seriously thought about teaching as a career.  As you can probably tell, in my eyes, he was everything that I wanted to be as a teacher.


Aside from his influence on my career choice, he also had a huge influence on my self-esteem.  I wasn’t very happy at school.  (Although I was, thank goodness, part of a great community outside of the school building.)  He knew that I didn’t fit in.  Being the faculty advisor for the treasury position, we spent a lot of time together.  One day he said to me: “You are a unique soul.  It gets better outside these walls and some day you will be cherished for those qualities instead of shunned for them.”  Those words were honestly my saving grace at a time when things were really hard.  They changed the way I saw the world.  They stayed with me for a long time.


Later on, I was telling this story to a friend who was an artist.  She came back the next day with a drawing of a purple giraffe for me.  Accompanying the picture were the words: “Purple giraffe: different, yes, but all the more beautiful for it.”  This in turn became my first tattoo as a reminder of where I came from and of the people who have influenced me.


So, this teacher truly shaped the person AND the teacher that I am.  I thank you M. Eugene Jacques.


One Response to “Who influenced you?”

  1. […] was a poem that I wrote about my experience having to quit gymnastics due to a back injury.  The second story I shared was about a teacher that had a big impact on me.  The third story was about a teacher […]

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