Lessons From Mrs. Berrier, aka Mom
The greatest teacher I ever had was Mrs. Berrier. As my fifth grade art teacher, she taught me lessons about self-direction and creativity that have endured long after I left her classroom. In fact, she continues to teach and support me—because she’s also my mother.
My mom, a proud graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, has been a teacher for almost 20 years. She has taught in schools where she had to take training to be able to break up fights, and in schools where irate parents demand to know why their children received less than a “satisfactory” on their report card. I think she has excelled at all of it because she teaches her students the same lesson, regardless of what classroom she is in: Your work is your own and is special when it represents you.
Elementary-aged kids often seek validation that what they have created is “good” or “right.” When a student asks, “Mrs. Berrier, do you like this? Am I done?” she always responds, “What do YOU think? Do you like it?” She constantly reinforces that as artists, her students have creative authority to express themselves through their art. She gives them confidence and autonomy every day to make their projects their own.
My mom has taught me this same lesson—that I can be whoever I want to be, as long as I am confident and happy. That encouragement and support is the reason I was able to conquer my fears and move out of North Carolina when I graduated from college, even though I had yet to secure a job in my new city. It is the reason I decided to go back to graduate school, even though it would mean incurring additional student debt. Because I know that at the end of the day, through hard work and dedication to my passions, I will be successful, with an unbeatable support system behind me.
This is what a good teacher is to me. I have been fortunate enough to have this love and support every day of my life, but I had many more teachers throughout my education who encouraged and empowered me to be the person I am today. I owe them all a tremendous debt for believing in me and helping me build on my strengths. They are the reason I am back in school for a master’s degree in Education Policy, and they are the reason I will dedicate my career to ensuring that they are supported in their classrooms to continue reaching students like they reached me.
This Teacher Appreciation Week, I send thanks to my mom—and to all the teachers who spend every single day working to empower their students to take charge of their own lives.
Tags: teacher quality