Posts Tagged ‘Teachers’

A Teacher Who Saw My Heart for Justice


Today’s tribute is about Mrs. Winegarden who was my 10th grade English teacher. Mrs. Winegarden lost her battle with cancer a number of years ago, but I have held her in my heart all these years.

Mrs. Winegarden required us to keep a journal. She read all the entries as the year went along and commented from time to time. At the end of the year she made a career prediction for each of us and wrote it in our journals.

Mrs. Winegarden’s prediction for me was:

I see you as a zealous ACLU lawyer!

I had written throughout the year about my faith in Jesus, about mountaintop youth group events, and even about my sense that I was called into ministry. I was sure that Mrs. Winegarden would affirm church-related ministry as my vocation. But she didn’t.

When I asked Mrs. Winegarden about it she said that in all my writing throughout the year I frequently wrote about “standing up for the underdog.” She noted that I was outspoken about things like discrimination and respect for all people. She said she “wouldn’t be surprised” if that became a centerpiece in my vocation.

While I still don’t think I’m destined for a legal career, I think she was right in some way.

In that class I wrote a paper about “ageism” and how children are often disrespected or mistreated just because they are young. Even then I was forming my attitudes about the kind of mother I would be. Today, as a mom I favor positive discipline and non-punitive parenting.

In a single journal entry I lamented abortion and capital punishment. Back then I was already forming an ethic that included respect for the unborn as well as dignity for convicted criminals. Nowadays I continue to scratch my head when someone affirms one but not the other.

I wrote in that 10th grade journal about the evils of racism, how bad stereotypes are, and my greatest ambition being to make the world a more loving place. It all sounds so idealistic now, think Jackie DeShannon’s “What the world needs now is love,” but Mrs. Winegarden was right that these types of concerns have been a big part of who I am.

Even in choosing to be a Deaconess, one of the hallmarks of Deaconess ministry is what we refer to as a “bias for the broken.” This means we pay particular attention to what Matthew 25:40 calls “the least of these” or what Mrs. Winegarden referred to as “standing up for the underdog.”

Maybe I’m too much on the fence to be a lawyer battling over rights like the ACLU does. I tend to look for quieter ways to make a difference, even if it is just one person at a time. But it means so much to me that Mrs. Winegarden saw that passion in me back then. I thank God for her insight into my future.

The Teacher Who Showed Us Jesus and Gave Us a Conscience


Welcome to “Tuesday Tributes,” a new series here on the blog. The series is about lifting up people who have impacted our lives. They may be our teachers, neighbors, parents, friends, or mentors.

Each Tuesday I will share a story about someone who has inspired me, mentored me in the faith, or shaped my character. Then you can tell your stories in the comments about someone who has impacted you in a similar way.

Today’s tribute is about Mrs. Bricker who was my 5th grade teacher.

How do public school teachers manage to remain faithful to Christ when they are not supposed to invoke his name in the classroom? If Christians are to be light to the world, how much are public school teachers allowed to shine before administration tells them to hide it under a bushel?

I don’t know if Mrs. Bricker ever told us she was a Christian that year, but when I found that out it was not a surprise to me. She probably wasn’t supposed to talk about such things, but even without talking about Jesus, she showed us his love.

Mrs. Bricker worked with us to write our own class rules. She encouraged us to think out-loud together about the importance of respecting one another.

She modeled respect in how she treated each one of us. She never raised her voice. She didn’t have to because we respected her.

When we misbehaved for other teachers, Mrs. Bricker corrected us calmly. She was clear that we had messed up, but her kindness gave us hope that we could do better.

Toward the end of the year Mrs. Bricker taught us a poem that she memorized in school. It was called, “Myself” and the author wrote about wanting to make choices that he could live with. Mrs. Bricker told us that these words had always stuck with her and made her think of the choices she made in life.

Each of us was required to recite the poem aloud to the class. We didn’t have to memorize it but I have always remembered the lessons she taught us with it.

The last couple of lines always stuck with me,

Whatever happens I want to be

Self respecting and conscience free.

I felt inspired by this idea of behaving in ways that would leave me with a clean conscience. The poem resonated with me all the more because Mrs. Bricker showed us what it looked like to live that way.

Like I say, Mrs. Bricker didn’t cross any lines separating church and state. She simply showed us Jesus by respecting us, and teaching us to respect one another. I believe she was Jesus to us when she gave us dignity even when we did undignified things. Through modeling “conscience free” living, she was pointing us to God’s better way for our lives.

When I speak to groups about living out their faith in their everyday lives, inevitably someone raises the question of “what if my job won’t let me talk about Jesus?” I think of people in my life like Mrs. Bricker and I tell them you do it by showing them the love of Jesus through your love and respect for them.

What about you? Do you recall teachers who both gave and received respect in the classroom? Who has helped shape your character or conscience? Who in your life has shown you the love of Jesus in how they have treated you?
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