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The importance of educators
jessica brown column
Jessica Brown

Kids are lamenting and parents are celebrating. It must mean that school is right around the corner.

In honor of the new school year, I’d like to express a sincere thank you to the educators who will make a difference in so many young lives by honoring just a few of the kind souls who made a lasting impact on my life.

I consider myself blessed to have had so many wonderful teachers and professors to mentor me and shape me into the young woman I am today.

From my stern kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Valdez, who helped pull our loose teeth and didn’t ask for a cut of the Tooth Fairy money to my proud college professor, Dr. Luthman, who came out to support my presentations at an academic conference, I’ve had my fair share of inspiring educators who always pushed me to do better and to be better in all that I do.

In eighth grade, there was my English and Georgia Studies teacher Ms. Kara Kopp. She loved animals and even had a pet deer that always came to visit her in her small cottage. Her passion for grammar and literacy has always stayed with me.

On the first day of class she pointed me out, sensing that I was new to the school. She was right. I had transferred from a Christian school the year prior and felt horribly out of place with my peers. She took me under her wing and helped develop my passion for writing, giving me a sense of belonging that I desperately looked for in my new school.

Eighth grade was also a very difficult year for me in my personal life. My beloved Boykin Spaniel, Morgan, had suddenly fallen very ill. My family and I were forced to say goodbye to her one night after school.

After crying all night, I unfortunately had to return to school the next day and do my best to keep myself together.

When I got to Ms. Kopp’s class, I fell apart in my seat. She was talking about her dogs and I could only hang my head down and conceal my tears as best I could.

But I wasn’t fooling her.

She called me aside as we walked into the lunchroom and asked me what was going on. I told her what had happened and apologized for crying. She hugged me and showed me compassion when I needed it most. Having Ms. Kopp listening to me and to be there to tell me everything would be okay meant more to me than she could possibly know.

When I reached high school, I met Mr. Derek Hon, my journalism teacher who pushed me throughout all four years of high school to be the best writer I could be. I entered his class with a sense of apathy - something I believe all 14-year-olds are equipped with by default, but I left that class being the first one in the school to letter in journalism and served as Editor-in-Chief for three years.

Mr. Hon saw potential in me, trusting me to design the newspaper and control what stories made the cut which sometimes put me at odds with my classmates. He was always open to my suggestions and willing to put the control of the paper into our hands as students.

With a young, growing family at home, he sacrificed so many hours of his personal time sitting in his classroom after school as my editors and I worked to get stories finished and pages designed. He could have easily told us that our work needed to wait until the next school day, but he was patient and let us work under deadlines we created.

Now 10 years later I am still applying all of the valuable knowledge he taught us on a daily basis.

In college I crossed paths with so many inspirational professors that it’s difficult for me to narrow down the top three that had an influence on my life. I had professors like Gloria Bennett who encouraged me to continue my creative writing endeavors. There was Dr. Vines who told me that I had real potential to be a screenwriter. My Civil War professor Dr. Clay Ouzts encouraged me to dig deeper into history and said that my research paper for his class would be worth submitting for publication.

But then there was ultimately one professor that I met within my last stretch of college that I will never forget.

 Professor Heather Murray brought history to life. The spark that I could see in her eyes when she talked about the Gilded Age ignited my own passion for history during a time that I felt lost and unhappy with my current career path. Her classes gave me the courage to change my major to history and I have never been happier.

Now that the school days are behind me, I look back fondly at all of the educators who made a positive impact in my life and I look at my fiancé, an educator himself, and see how he impacts his students every day.

Whether it’s by coming to one of their high school plays, hosting an afterschool creative writing club or helping a troubled student that needs someone to talk to, every day he inspires me and I can only imagine what his students will say about him years down the road.

Thank you to all of the educators who strive to make a difference in a child’s life. A kind word, a hug or even writing “great job” on a test can mean the world to a child. In an often thankless job, thank you for the work that you do and I hope that you all have a wonderful school year.

Jessica Brown is the education and features reporter for the Dawson County News.