Mrs. Meeks. Mrs. Leffel. Mrs. Tate.

Mrs. McBride. Mrs. Naragon. Mrs. Garner. Mr. Doubt.

Yep, I remember not only the names of my elementary school teachers but how they looked, how they talked and little things they did.

Mrs. Leffel, my first-grade schoolmarm, once stepped over my sleeping mat, and I inadvertently caught an unwanted glimpse of her undergarments.

Still makes me blush.

“Bearfeathers!” my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Garner, frequently exclaimed, employing an equally colorful but more wholesome expression for calling BS on students who were less than forthright.

In sixth grade, I had Mr. Doubt, who seemed to know everything about everything, without a doubt.

From each of them, I learned a foundation of facts that helped me think beyond my plans for the next recess period.

Top-rate teachers continued to pave my path through junior high, where Mr. Faudree loved to startle us by whacking the metal frame of the overhead screen in math class and bellowing, “Ring the bell for Shell!”

None of us really knew what it meant, other than that we needed to look alert and pay attention.

Mrs. Krebs had perhaps the greatest influence on my future, recognizing my potential as a writer and praising my progress in her English class.

In high school, Mrs. Bales further cultivated my interest in the written word while Mr. Jones and Mr. Gilbert made the study of history intriguing. And, of course, Mr. Underwood managed to bring humor to biology while keeping his son in line.

Perhaps you’re like me and remember your teachers with an appreciation that has deepened with the passing of time.

It was a tough job, teaching rascally kids like we were. And it’s a tough job today, teaching kids who, fundamentally, aren’t much different.

But the challenges today seem greater, since schools have become relied upon to provide a broad range of services — special needs education, free lunches, counseling, individualized education plans, etc. — beyond the ol’ readin’, writin’ and arithmetic.

Now more than ever, teachers must be thick skinned but sensitive, school wise but street smart, levelheaded but bighearted.

Some days, it can seem like a thankless job. Other days, they’re rewarded with kind words or surprising progress from a student.

In Indiana, as in many other states, teachers are underpaid and overworked. Sure, they have the summer off, but “summer,” as defined by the school calendar, is shrinking faster than paper in fire.

Not all teachers, of course, are role models and top-shelf professionals. Some of them were never really well suited for the profession. Not many people are.

But most are truly amazing people who care about the students and the community and approach their work as a profession, not just a job.

Take the time to thank them today. And recognize that, for you and your child, the difference they’re making will last a lifetime.

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