Thursday January 1, 2004

2 Teach is 2 Touch Lives 4 Ever

[ Today's question comes from Diarist.Net Spark (30 December 2003) ]

Who has been your most influential teacher? What did he, she, or even it, help you learn?

Consider different answers to this question. Certainly you have school teachers, professors, community leaders... But where else have some of the most important lessons you've learned come from? A friend? An ex? A stranger, or celebrity? Could it be loss, or time, or failure?

If you could speak to this teacher right now, what would you say?

My earliest, best, and longest-held teachers are my parents. They taught me to read — the best gift anyone can give — and to enjoy learning. They taught me first that I could choose my own direction, do anything I set my mind to, and be anything I choose to be.

Long before articles were written on the subject, my parents involved themselves in my school work, helping me to find project assignments, quizzing me before tests, going over homework assignments, working with me (but never doing the work for me) when I had difficulties. My mother used to help me choose my weekly vocabulary words by quizzing me on words from the Readers Digest "Word Power" column. (It's a good thing we saved all the old issues; as my vocabulary expanded, we needed more and more choices to come up with 10 words!)

Although it must have come as something of a shock for an architect and an art teacher to have a daughter so clearly interested in science and technology, my parents have never been anything less than totally supportive. When, in my junior year of High School, my science course load threatened to cause me to miss lunch period on Wednesdays (egad!), my mother readily wrote a note to the school to tell them this was perfectly fine and Vicki could take classes or miss lunch as she chose! (Thanks Mom; that Bio II class was one of the best I ever took).

I still learn from my parents. My Dad helped us with our screen porch, calculating load and beam size and position. My mother astounded our favorite diner waitress when she taught me the word "thixotropic".

From High School, I remember two teachers with special fondness. Miss Riley taught Advanced English and made it fun. Although I had other English teachers before and since (two of whom were the worst "teachers" I ever had!), I will always remember Miss Riley as nothing less than wonderful. I can't say my interest in writing comes from her, but she was one of the teachers who most encouraged it.

Mr. McCall taught "Computer Math", a one-semester course in FORTRAN programming. That course set me on the road that took me where I am today. It was my first programming course (and a very good one, in my estimation). That course fostered my decision to sign up for a double major in Computer Science in College (and made my initial programming classes at Penn State much easier).

My next most memorable and treasured teacher came along after I graduated from College. Thinking I might enjoy a career in Forensic Science, I entered a grad School program in Connecticut. Dr. Ganesslen was my department head, advisor, and primary instructor for the program. When he talked about Forensic Science, for the time he was talking, you knew this was the most fascinating subject in the Universe.

Unfortunately, I realized very quickly (within two weeks!) that it wasn't the career for me. I hesitated to tell Dr. G that I didn't want to work in his field. When I did tell him, he told me something that I have treasured ever since. He said

If you don't love what you're doing, you should be doing what you love.
Out of respect for him, I stayed in the program for two trimesters (I had a teaching assistantship and couldn't be replaced any earlier). During that time, I learned a lot about Forensic Science — and even more about loving your work.

My next most influential teacher wasn't (officially) a teacher at all! Shortly after I started my second Grad School program, in Maryland, I met Rich, the man who became (over time) my best friend and spouse. Rich introduced me to the Unix Operating System at the same time that he was learning it. He encouraged me to learn everything I could about Unix.

When I realized that (once again) I didn't want to be" what my Grad School program was teaching me to be (in this case, a Microbiologist), Rich encouraged me to consider computer applications in biology. He supported me when I dropped my advisor (a royal louse ;-) and began to research alternatives. Rich hasn't been with me as long as my parents, but like my parents, he has supported me for the entire time we've been together.

"Last" (but never least) I would have to name the woman who was most influential in getting me where I am today. When Dr. Colwell learned I had dropped my advisor (and that the department summarily dropped my teaching assistantship!) she immediately offered me a position in her lab, a thesis project, and an advisory team!

I am honored to have been Dr. Colwell's only "terminal Masters candidate". She told me she believed firmly in giving women a chance in the sciences, and she had a tailor-made project just perfect for me — a computer and statistical analysis of data her lab was in the process of collecting. That project got me my first job, which got me my second, and so on to today (in fact, my Micro background has been responssible for several jobs I've had over the years). Much of where I am today can be traced back to a pivotal few months in Maryland and the solid support of two people — my advisor and my best friend.

What would I say to (any of) these people today? What could I say but "Thank you".

2 Teach is 2 Touch Lives 4 Ever ( in category Memes & Prompts ) - posted at Thu, 01 Jan, 11:40 Pacific | «e»