Kate Anderson new

Last Saturday, pursuit of a writing career took me to an unexpected place: MyCon gaming festival at the Cache County Events Center.

This year, the festival offered panel discussions including topics like game design, copyright law, and the creative process of writing. Since I’m on the board of the Friends of North Logan Library, who sponsored the writing panel, I attended. The panel included local authors Frank Cole, Amanda Luzzader, and Chadd VanZanten and was hosted by library programs director Jameson Smith.

It was educational, to say the least. The authors spoke eloquently on how to avoid writers block, how to make writing time the most productive, and how to find new ideas. I expected that.

What I did not expect was a generous sense of sharing. In front of an audience of potential competitors within a demanding industry, the authors were not the least bit selfish. They were dolling out advice as quickly as audience members could frame a question. Each author gave tips on how aspiring writers could follow their footsteps in the publishing world. They told us we could succeed. And the crazy thing is, we believed them.

It made me reflect on the wonderful gift it is to have mentors and teachers in the learning process. So much can be learned when the experienced pass on their knowledge.

I wonder how much we take that for granted? There are people who have full-time jobs educating the masses. Do I appreciate them? Do I appreciate what they give to me and, more importantly, to my children?

Bless these selfless dispensers of knowledge: our Cache Valley school teachers. The age groups they focus on may range anywhere from Pre-K to university, but educators all have something in common – dedication. Helping others learn is their top priority.

Until this summer, I had no idea how much time this actually took from a teacher’s life. My sister-in-law recently got her first full-time teaching job. As a new elementary school teacher, she had to take courses and orientations all summer. She did get some time off – a solitary week around the 4th of July.

With fall creeping closer, she has been at the school nearly all day, every day to finish preparing for her students first day of school. Her children estimate that she worked at least 70 hours this past week.

She is not alone. Far from it. The halls and rooms of our schools are alive with paper-hanging, stapler wielding, marker-carrying teachers and aids. All are doing their very best to make the sanitized classrooms into a welcoming place where learners can thrive.

But for what? Do fresh handouts and pretty drawings on the blackboard really make a difference in education? Long-time teacher Julie Cook said those things aren’t what makes a classroom great.

“So many people look at numbers and curriculum. Of course, those things are important.” Cook explained that state standards and teaching expectations are necessary to ensure a solid education. However, some vital life lessons and skills aren’t included in the curriculum.

“What really counts in education can’t be quantified. Kindness, love and compassion can’t be measured,” Cook said, “which is just about everything that really counts.”

Alluring as it may seem to picture teachers as immortals naturally gifted with infinite patience and a

knack for dispelling error, we know that’s not accurate. Teachers are human. They had to study and practice to perfect their craft. Much more goes into teaching than planning out lesson blocks. Managing a room full of other mini-humans (or not-so-mini humans) takes a special kind of person.

The time and commitment every teacher invests in their students is commendable. Because so many excellent educators live in our valley, I hesitate to point out just one. But I have been so concerned with my 3rd grade son, Seth, I have to explain how one angel in mortal’s clothing set my mind at ease.

Seth is one of those kids that is too smart for his own good. He taught himself to read at age 4. Since kindergarten, he has challenged his teachers to make their classes simultaneously engaging and structured. At home, he asks endless questions and talks constantly. How can I expect a person handling 30 children to have time for my son? How could someone with that kind of load possibly help him continue to learn, despite his demanding brain?

I shared a little of my concern with my good friend, Christina Smith. It just so happens that she is a 3rd grade teacher at our school, Thomas Edison Charter School North. When I saw Seth’s name on her roll, I nearly cried, more for her sake than mine. He is such a complex kid! When I expressed my condolences to her, she laughed. Yes, dear reader, she laughed.

“Don’t be silly,” she gently chided. “I will love him! Just like I love all my kids. We’re going to have a great year.”

The crazy thing is, I believe her.

That is the gift that teachers and mentors give. They see the end from the smudged, sticky, undisciplined beginning. They see the people around them not as they are, but as they can be. That love elevates mere mortals from a place where they are aspiring into a place where they have become all they should be.

Kate E Anderson is a mother of five living in North Logan. She can be reached at katecole9@yahoo.com