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By Carrie Younce
Unlike some in his profession, my sixth-grade English teacher -- Mr. Duncan -- seemed to realize that the true blessing of being a teacher is in the opportunity to help shape a human soul.
Since I attended nine schools in twelve years, it seemed as if I was always the "new kid." After turning in one particularly lengthy poetry assignment, Mr. Duncan asked me to stay after class.
"This is very good," he said. "And very sad. Why are you so sad?"
When I complained that I just didn't fit in, Mr. Duncan folded his hands on his desk and said, "Look at my fingers. They all have a place. They all fit. That's the way God made it. You also have a place. The adventure is in finding it."
"Is the poem really good?" I asked. "I mean, I want to be really good like Stephen King or Shakespeare."
"Why do you want to be like someone else? You are capable of so much more than that. Just be yourself; be spectacular."
He encouraged me to push toward the edge. "There are no boundaries set for excellence," he proclaimed. "There are only guidelines that, if followed, will yield much good fruit." In this, he taught me that I could do whatever I wanted to do -- that the power to become whatever I was called to be already lay within me.
I was fertile ground for the seeds of acceptance that he planted in me.
Mr. Duncan not only believed in me, but he also constantly affirmed that the Greater One in me was doing the work through me.
"All good things come from God. You're the receiver of a gift. Don't try to take too much credit."
I developed appreciation for the grace of God within that simple truth.
When Mr. Duncan passed away three years after I left his class, more than four hundred people attended his funeral. Past students and their parents, fellow teachers, and neighbors all came to mourn and pay respect to the man whom we called teacher, mentor, and friend.
One of the poems read by the pastor at his memorial was mine. It was a simple free verse, speaking of how a drop of water falling onto the surface of a pond makes many ripples. The pastor closed by saying, "This one man has affected the lives of everyone here. Like in this poem, he was one drop that fell to earth and landed here in this pond, right where he belonged. He rose up here and took his proper place, so that we all might grow."
My poem, the one he had called good but sad, was added to the testimony of his legacy. I guess, in the end, God made teachers of us both.
The Best Teacher in the World © 2007 by Dave Bordon & Associates, LLC