Clippings by Andy Kirkaldy: Say thanks to people who matter

When I sat down recently with soon-to-retire Ferrisburgh Central School teacher Alana Lilly, I asked her the standard question about the highlights of her 30 years at the school.
As is always the case, not all of an interviewee’s response made the final cut for a story. Not everything fit: After all, in 30 years, Lilly, like other teachers with similar careers, had made an impact at her school. 
Instead, the article talked about her helping to create two annual events at Ferrisburgh Central, a producers’ fair that highlights students’ work with local farmers, and an “invention convention” that encourages third-graders to build devices to perform mechanical feats. The piece also noted Lilly was once named Vermont’s Conservation Teacher of the Year.
But what she first mentioned when I asked the question was a knock on a door during a staff meeting. It came from a student she had taught at least 15 years ago, and who had come back into town and wanted to say hi to and thank the woman he called the best fifth- and sixth-grade teacher he ever had.
I’ve learned over the years these are the rewards teachers cherish.
Now, talking to longtime teachers on the cusp of retirement is one of my more enjoyable, and if I may, educational assignments each year.
To start with, teachers are almost universally good folks. Like nursing, the people who go into the profession tend to have good motives, not to mention brains, kindness and patience. (Full disclosure, yes, I am married to a Vergennes Union High School teacher, and yes, she possesses those qualities. She especially requires the latter one, patience, to remain married to me.)
Like nurses, teachers also tend to be under-appreciated, so most teachers are happy to sit down with a reporter. It makes for lively and informative chats.
I’ve learned teachers really are fonts of patience with their kids. And at least when they are ready to step down they call them kids, not youngsters or pupils or students. Most want every one of those kids to succeed, and will advocate for them, sometimes fiercely.
They have less tolerance for things that get in the way of what they see as the best way to teach or take care of those kids, like confusing multiple directives from higher-ups in the government or district or the sometimes burdensome requirements from standardized testing.
Teachers wish people would understand their work day doesn’t begin at 8 a.m. and end at 3 p.m., nor does the work year begin in September and end in June. Tasks like planning, creating new units, completing ongoing personal education requirements, grading papers and tests and entering those grades, chaperoning events, attending staff meetings, serving on committees, answering parents’ and administrators’ concerns, and preparing classrooms add untold hours.
They appreciate it when community members support their schools by attending events, volunteering in classrooms or for school projects, or taking an active role in their kids’ education.
And, like Lilly, they love it when students take the time to say thanks. My wife still has notes saved from a decade ago, when she taught at Otter Valley.
So as the school year winds down, here’s a message especially for the seniors: Take a minute and say thanks to teachers who have meant something to you on the way.
It may mean more to them than you know.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

Share this story:

More News
US Probation Office Uncategorized

US Probation Office Request for Proposals

US Probation Office 2×1.5 062024 RFP

Middlebury American Legion Uncategorized

Middlebury American Legion Annual Meeting

Middlebury American Legion 062024 1×1.5 Annual Meeting

Sports Uncategorized

MAV girls’ lax nets two triumphs

The Mount Abraham-Vergennes cooperative girls’ lacrosse team moved over .500 with a pair o … (read more)

Share this story: