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Johnny Jones, 27 September 2002

I would like to dedicate this column to the hard-working public school teachers who have contributed so much to my life and the lives of our children.

There was no public kindergarten when I started to school. That meant that Mrs. Napier, my first-grade teacher, was my first teacher. I remember her as being friendly and young. I loved going to school. I loved our class.

Our afternoon recess was the last hour of the day, from 2:00 to 3:00, so that parents could have the option of bringing their children home early. The first day Mama came for me at 2, and I begged her, "Please let me stay!"

I was so grateful not to have Miss Allen, who taught right across the hall from Mrs. Napier. Miss Allen seemed fearfully old: buck-teethed, high-bunned gray hair, and a stern face. She was the embodiment of the word "strict." I rarely saw her smile, and there were constant rumors of her rapping knuckles with rulers. I was afraid of her.

But I loved my reader, full of Dick and Jane and Baby Sally. I even remember Spot and Puff, their animals, and I wanted to have a family just like theirs.

Mrs. Parker, in second grade, was more like a grandmother - kind, warm, concerned. I remember literally looking up to her because she was tall and thin. Mrs. Napier didn't quite know what to do with me when I was ahead of the class. I remember memorizing the letters of the alphabet backwards to entertain myself. I know it to this day.

But Mrs. Parker knew what to do. She had me tutor other children when I was done with my own work. What a revelation that was for me! I remember being astonished that work simple and boring for me was actually challenging and even difficult to some of the other students. I'd learned to read when I was three.

Not all my teachers were wonderful. Mrs. Turner in 3rd grade may have been burned out. Maybe it was also the classroom. We were across the road from the rest of the school that year in one of those outbuildings that school boards always swear are only for a year are two and end up being used for seventeen years or so. It was crowded, and the playground was totally without equipment. If we didn't remember to take a ball out for recess, we were sunk. There was mud when it rained, and a few patches of stubborn grass.

What I remember most in my teachers during those early years was kindness, concern, and an ability to identify a child's needs and do something about them.

Although I had my share of mediocre and poor instructors, the Lord also placed teachers who could benefit my life -- even in that tiny Alabama community.

And we have teachers like that here. I know, because our children's lives were blessed by them - people like Diana Robnett and Cheryl Mayfield. And since our children left the system, others have come who are also dedicated and competent, like Leann Lane and Kim Knight.

So even though we're past Thanksgiving, we can still give thanks for the blessings teachers have brought into our lives.

So hard-working professional competent committed teachers - we salute you! May the Lord bless you and yours.