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The Poet’s Corner

The Poet's Corner: A poem for all teachers

Poetry

"Every child deserves a champion

An adult who will never give up on them

Who understands the power of connection

And insists that they become

The best that they can possibly be."– Rita Pierson

Twenty poets, storytellers and musicians met at the Camille Creek School on the campus of the Napa County Office of Education on  Nov. 11 when Superintendent of Schools Barbara Nemko and I invited guests to write and share an original poem about or for a teacher who had inspired them thanking them for their dedication. Attendees also shared stories and creative songs.

Joyce Prescott, Nick Triglia, Matthew Gudenius, Stephanie Hawks, Lenore Hirsch, Suzanne Bruce and Alan Arnopole chose their favorite verses to fashion this found poem. Dr. Nemko will send it to all the teachers in Napa County. Thanks so much, Barbara!

An Ode to Teachers

What did you see in me that I did not

insecure self-conscious awkward teen  (J. Prescott)

I still hear your gravely Southern voice reading a story

You gave me the ability to listen.  (N. Triglia)

You planted a seed of curiosity 

It has sprouted grown with coming of age (M. Gudenius)

Renaissance teacher a shrew never tame

Hath also grace a true teacher grand dame  (M. Gudenius)

A thank you for teachers who never give up on students

who may someday become teachers too (N. Triglia)

We sang we plucked a fiddle we beat a drum

your music wrapped its arms around us (S. Hawks)

You cared opened my eyes to the world  (L. Hirsch)

I truly learned when you believed in my radiance

You were a candle consuming yourself to light the way for me (M. Lyon)

Teaching like a masterpiece viewed not because of images

but with feelings more than a diploma on the wall (S. Bruce)

Anyone can be a teacher we all have gifts to share

All it takes is intention and the willingness to share (Alan Arnopole)

Dr. Nemko had so much to offer during the afternoon. She said, “Good teachers plant a seed that grows into the future. A few inspiring words can change the trajectory of a student’s life. She shared with such pride that the Camille Creek School is a new, innovative program. Kids are inspired to follow their dreams. How about learning to be a chef?

Alan Arnopole sang harvest songs that kindled the flame in us. Alan has been singing his whole life. Listening to the songs he wrote and sang with such passion I am reminded of the quote from Clay P. Bedford: “You can teach a student a lesson for a day, but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.”

Jim Lyon, a retired resource specialist and administrator, told a story about a student who could not read but he could fix the brakes of Bendix bike flawlessly. Jim's message was that we all have special gifts. It is the gifted teacher that helps students find their gifts. Jim saw the boy years later in high school, and he was reading, in his own time.

John Hannaford, a music and visual art teacher for 50 years, shared many stories of his long teaching career and also his inspiration to become a teacher. He said that he was inspired by those teachers who truly saw their students as individuals, saw what they needed to grow and gave them the space of choices that brought out their creativity. John’s daughter was in attendance. Whitney Hannaford Hahn shared that she learned when teachers gave her choices. Surprise: I taught her music 30 years ago.

John Prescott shared that his most well-remembered teacher was Professor Hugh Richmond who taught at Cal in 1971. I took Professor Richmond’s Shakespeare class more than 50 years ago and amazingly, surprisingly, and coincidently had him for an Osher Lifelong Learning (OLLI) class in Berkeley last year.

The now professor emeritus had a rich English accent and taught that the words and phrases in Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets are forever intertwined in our everyday conversations and writings but that we are unfortunately unaware of his almost constant, omniscient presence. Although I am old now, I can offer you that almost nothing is new that hasn’t been influenced directly or indirectly by the great Bard who lived over 450 years ago.

We had a remarkable time together. I leave you with this quote by Dan Rather:

"The dream begins most of the time

With a teacher who believes in you

Who tugs and pushes

leads you to the next plateau

Sometimes poking you

With a sharp stick

Called truth."

Calistoga Elementary teacher Matthew Gudenius uses the piratical 'R' sound to teach phonics to first-grade students in this video produced during the pandemic shutdown of schools.

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