Heroes 101

Here’s a story I heard:

“When I was in first grade, Mr. Lohr said one day that my purple teepee wasn’t realistic enough, that purple was no color for a tent, that my drawing wasn’t good enough to hang with the others.

“I walked back to my seat counting the swish swish swishes of my baggy corduroy trousers. With a black crayon, nightfall came to my purple tent in the middle of an afternoon.

“In second grade, Mr. Barta said, ‘Draw anything.’ He didn’t care what. I left my paper blank and when he came around to my desk, my heart beat like a tom-tom while he touched my head with his big hand and in a soft voice said, ‘The snowfall. How clean and white and beautiful’” (author unknown).

Teachers like Mr. Barta should be applauded. Sorry, Tiger Woods, Keanu Reeves, and Eminem, but I think teachers are the real heroes today. They ignite our confidence, hoist our dreams, and stretch our minds.

I’ve had some “Mr. Bartas” in my life. If you don’t mind, I’d like to say thanks to a few of them. You’re welcome to read the letters under one condition--you promise to send a letter today to a “Mr. Barta” in your life.

* * *

Dear Mr. Rice, (5th- and 6th-grade teacher, Cedar Brook School, Rehobeth, Massachusetts)

I’ve still got a Kidsville dollar that I earned for my science project (had I invested it, I could buy the entire Kidsville store by now!). And every now and then I recall how you’d occasionally interrupt history class with “Plaaaaaay ball!” (Sorry, I can’t remember the history lessons). And I can’t see an airplane without thinking of the time you let me land your Cessna (I was 12 years old--what were you thinking?)

Bob, you made school a carnival. Your explosive laughter, your energetic song service, your peanut butter pancakes, your “surprise package,” your stories about Jesus--all of these “Bobisms” rank as my most enjoyable memories of school. Thank you. You’ll always be my hero.

* * *

Dear Mrs. Liers, (algebra and geometry teacher, Shenandoah Valley Academy, New Market, Virginia)

Math came about as naturally to me as giving childbirth. But your infectious smile and encouraging word spurred me on when I wanted to quit.

I remember a little of your math—mostly the Pythagorean theorem (because you let Kevin, Jim and me teach that day). But I remember a lot about you. I remember you were the only teacher who noticed I was squinting to see the board. Then you helped me adjust to the trauma of being called “4-eyes.” I remember the time you said my sermon at the student week-of-prayer was “the finest I’ve ever heard from anybody.” I remember the day you hugged me when I bombed one of your quizzes. Thanks for the memories.

* * *

Dear Dr. Bursey, (professor of theology, Walla Walla College, College Place, Washington)

Sitting in your class was the closest I’ll ever come on this earth to feeling like I’m sitting on a hillside listening to Jesus. That’s why I audited your classes when I couldn’t take them for credit.

I remember you saying, “You can’t spend an hour with Jesus and remain the same person.” I learned that I couldn’t spend an hour in your class and not feel like I had been with Jesus. Thank you.

* * *

It’s been my experience that Seventh-day Adventist schools are teeming with teachers who transcend the ordinary. They excel beyond expectations. And they care deeply for their kids.

So why not invest in an Adventist education? Chances are you’ll meet a lot of Mr. Bartas.

July 01, 2003 / Fresh Start