Core scripture: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you” (Philippians 1:3).
Message: Today in the great state of Kansas we are in the second day of Teacher Appreciation Week. It couldn’t come at a better time either—you know, when most teachers are flirting with burn out. When they need a little pick-me-up to power them through the end of the week. Teachers are certainly important to youth, but a Christian teacher? A Christian teacher is invaluable. Unprecedented. Priceless. I have had many amazing teachers in my life, but there is one I would like to immortalize today. It is a man I ran across long ago, a college professor, that taught me a lesson I shall never forget.
My first impression of Professor Blake was positive. He seemed to care about his students. Every time I was brought into his office to discuss my latest essay, he always took the time to connect with me on a personal level, telling stories of fatherhood and asking me about my own life. But soon after I began getting papers back from him, I realized something: no matter how hard I tried, it was never good enough to earn an A. I mean, my writing was not B or C worthy! (Or so I thought back then.) I tried my best, but he always found a way to challenge me. But my papers were not the only way he challenged me. He likewise pushed me in discussions.
You must understand that in class back then I didn’t care to speak. I’m an introvert. Yet in a small class of eight to ten, it is pretty doggone easy to find the kid that doesn’t speak; and when your grading scale is weighed heavily on participation, I fell short. A lot! During those conversations in his office, I would always ask how I could improve my grade. He would always smile and lovingly tell me that he needed me to speak up more. So, I tried. A little, I suppose. It felt awkward. But I cared enough about my grade to give it a shot. He did praise me for my efforts, but all I was doing was parroting back what other kids were saying. Nothing was original. Professor Blake was always gently reminding me of that.
I became frustrated. I actually remember defacing him in my journal at home on occasions. But he was molding me into a more productive student at the same time. I didn’t even realize it until later during my student teaching. Long after taking B’s and C’s in his class, I found myself in front of the classroom myself teaching 9th grade English and 12th grade Honor’s English. That senior class was incredible! Tons of kids who were writing as good as if not better than me, not to mention making discussion points that provoked stimulating class discussions. One kid stood out to me. His name was Adam. Adam could write a paper like none other. It was his gift, and he was certainly going to take his talents to excel at the next level in college. But there was a slight problem …
Yep, you guessed it. Adam was an introvert. Adam despised participation. I knew he had brilliance inside him after seeing it exposed in his papers. He simply needed to let it free in class. I remember my cooperating teacher and I discussing ways to get through to Adam. I tried it all. Notes. Personal conversations. I praised him for every small improvement. By the time I left that classroom to find my own teaching job, Adam had matured so much! But that wasn’t what stuck with me. What stuck with me was that I had become Professor Blake by pushing a student to success. The teacher that once frustrated me was living inside me. Adam’s success came because another teacher taught me how to not accept mediocrity.
I wrote Professor Blake a thank you note that day. He took the time to write back. That was just his personality to give his heart to his students. The sad thing was that I didn’t realize his brilliance until after having left his class. I haven’t spoken to him personally since way back in 2002 when I took his classes, but I believe he still teaches at MidAmerica Nazarene University. I might even shoot him a link to this blog to show him how appreciated he is. I praise God for allowing me the privilege of being pushed in his classes and for life-changing lessons that he instilled inside me. Professor Blake helped me find my voice, and I am a better teacher today because of teachers like him. Professor Blake, wherever you are, thank you for everything.
I wonder … who is your Professor Blake? Who made an impact on your life? Give them a shout out today. Drop them a line. Call them. If you have the time, stop by and pay them a visit. Let them know how much you appreciate them. Even if they have long since retired, I bet that teacher would appreciate the sentiment. At least this teacher here writing this would! Thanks to all of you out there who are influencing the minds of young ones. Your dedication and sacrifice is priceless.
(Oh, and don’t forget your free meal at Chic-fil-A with a valid teacher ID!)
Challenge: Thank one of your favorite teachers today. It could be a colleague, a face from the past, or anyone who has passed on Christlike knowledge to you. Praise God for their influence on you, and let them know how much you appreciate their wisdom. If you feel so called, reply to this blog and tell all teachers who they are and what they did.
Song to bring it home: Although this song is meant more for Jesus, it still speaks truth to saying thanks. Listen to “All I Can Do” by Mikeschair. All I can do is say thank you to all those teachers out there who made a difference in my life.
Prayer: Father, thank you for the amazing Christian teachers out there that are making a difference in the world. I praise them for showing others who Christ is through their actions. May I teach with that same passion. It is in the ultimate teacher’s name that I pray. Amen.
Thanks so much, Clint! Your students are so blessed to have you as their teacher, and I wish there were more like you out there. May the Lord continue to bless your ministry to the young people of Olathe. –Prof. Blake
Thank you for this inspiring story! I work with Dr. Blake everyday at MNU. He enjoys a well-earned reputation for rigor, good humor, and respect toward others. In a day and age when institutional pressures may drive some teachers to compromise their standards, Dr. Blake holds high the banner of academic excellence, wisdom for life, and costly grace.