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The taps on his wingtips clicking on the hardwood floor of his classroom – that’s one sound I’ll never forget from that first day in his class.
And how professional he looked – not just that first day – but every day.
Or how he made history come alive because he was such a great storyteller.
Mr. Bennett Gunter shaped my ideas of how a professional educator looks, teaches and manages a class, and he gave me a vision for what education can do for a person.
On Monday, more than 11,000 students will walk into their classrooms and meet their teachers.
And those teachers won’t just be teaching math and English and science skills.
Those teachers will be role models for their students. They’ll give them dreams for their futures and visions of how education can transform them.
During my five years here, I’ve come to appreciate what great “first impressions” our teachers make and what great representatives they are for the things we want our children to value.
I’ve watched our teachers spend hours and hours researching and planning and teaming up to do all they can to reach every student.
I’ve watched our teachers reach out to students struggling with issues that have nothing to do with what a teacher contract says they’re paid to do.
I’ve watched our teachers inspire students to develop their gifts and achieve more than anyone else ever expected of them.
I’ve watched our teachers, and they’ve made me very proud to have the privilege of working with such talented, dedicated educators.
So as our students begin this school year, I wish for them teachers who know how to get students excited about and interested in learning.
I wish for them teachers who don’t just take an interest in their students’ academics, but who also reach out to them when other parts of their lives are rocky.
I wish for them teachers who inspire them the way so many of my teachers inspired me.
And I wish for them parents who send them to school rested and fed and ready to learn – parents who help their children realize how important school is to their future success.
Mr. Gunter always ended his classes with the same question: “Are there any questions, remarks, contributions or objections? Hearing none, we are dismissed.”
And I always just sat there, never brave enough to lift my hand and take advantage of that invitation, too self-conscious to share the observations or questions I had.
I know that our teachers, like Mr. Gunter, are inviting their students to do more than just sit and listen, inviting them to be active learners who question and comment and grow.
My hope is our students won’t sit there passively as I did.
My hope is our students will be waving their hands to start conversations with their teachers and their peers, conversations that enrich their lives forever and build their skills for thinking and learning and most of all, succeeding.
Dr. Gene Moore is superintendent of Lancaster County School District.