Mrs. Eberhard, a compassionate and dedicated teacher who uplifted a thousand lives.
“Good morning everyone,” she said with a sparkle in her eyes and a warm glow on her face. “I’m Mrs. Eberhard and as we start this semester, I’m looking forward to getting to know each of you.”
It was 1961, and Mrs. Eberhard was nearing the end of her long teaching career, approaching the retirement age of 65. She’d performed this greeting for over 40-years yet she treated it as if it was a new and exciting experience.
There she stood, a lady whose round smiling full-cheeked face was framed by her long gray hair in a narrow pony tail pinned to the back of her head. That Mrs. Eberhard was no-longer trim was beside the point. Maybe she had never been.
Her specialty was troubled kids the other teachers didn’t want. Those from broken homes, those biding their time until they could quit school or in those days would have to quit school if they got pregnant. A few of the students had been in and out of jail.
But Mrs. Eberhard could reach many of these supposed losers. I know for at the age of 16, I was one of them.
Her approach varied with each one. But generally, it was to quickly learn the student’s name and to be pleasant, as she encouraged each one to discuss his or her background and feelings, while she got a sense for who this individual really was.
Then Mrs. Eberhard would work her magic. Frequently before she would speak, for an instant she would look a student in the eye and simply smile. Then she did everything she could to help often starting with self-esteem issues and providing her gentle guidance.
In my case, I disliked school and sometimes argued with teachers, who in turn gave me the bad grades I often deserved. But once when I surprised a teacher and earned a B, he gave me a C and said, “Knowing you and your work, I couldn’t get myself to give you a B.” Then he shrugged his shoulders and walked away.
“How can you do this,” I asked loudly, as my insides ached. “I earned that B.” He looked like the former pro-football lineman he’d been 25-years earlier. Built like a Mack truck and with a square, hardened bull-dog type face, he stared at me as his eyes narrowed sharply.
“I’m not changing that grade,” he growled. “You don’t deserve better.” I was upset, wanting to yell out how unfair this was but eventually I calmed down and said to myself, “What does it matter. My grades are bad any way and this won’t change a thing.”
But this is the difference in the life of a student a good teacher like Mrs. Eberhard can make. With her I had math, and she patiently worked with me, sometimes on her own time, and those smiles and words of encouragement were always there.
In the end, much to everyone’s surprise, she gave me an A and that grade has stayed with me for 48-years and it will live as long as I do. For it was an important accomplishment when it was most needed and it reinforced my self-esteem, something virtually everyone wants to feel.
Perhaps you too had a Mrs. Eberhard in your life, and if so you know what a difference a kind and caring teacher can make. And if you are a thoughtful and devoted teacher, we all owe you a debt of gratitude.
At 16, I didn’t know how to thank Ms. Eberhard although I think in her heart she knew how much her kindness meant to me. Now I’m about the age she was then and if I could, I would say ‘thank you,’ and give her a big hug and a bouquet of flowers.
At the start of this article, I said Mrs. Eberhard uplifted a thousand lives, but none of us can really know how many lives among the thousands of her students she uplifted but it was many of them. And although she is no longer with us she briefly touched your life today.
Success Tip of the Week:
You don’t have to be a teacher to teach. The lessons you offer through your words and your deeds are instilled in your children and in others you spend time with so be a positive influence in their lives. Even a kind word or thoughtful gesture may mean more than you know.
In the next KazanToday:
An obnoxious oaf gets his comeuppance and learns a valuable lesson from it.