This weekend, I have the privilege of attending my parents 50th wedding anniversary. I still find it hard to believe that they are old enough to have reached this amazing milestone. My parents are both educators and even though they have long since left the classroom, they are still active in supporting and training teachers on how to best serve their students. They spend a great deal of their time in Central and South America, spending their own money to get down there every 3-6 months. They work at a breakneck speed going from school to school giving seminars in English and Spanish and are continually asked to return to give more PD sessions.
Are they rich and famous? Not at all. Yet to the people who participate in their free sessions, they are heroes and they are well loved by both the teachers and the students who come into contact with them. Why? Because my parents truly love each and every one of them.
This is how I grew up. My sister, brother, and myself were part of a loving family based on respect and faith. My parents were not just a mother and father to us, but to each and every student who walked into their classrooms. My parents worked their whole lives in the public school system because they believed in it.
We grew up in a small town where there was a large divide between the rich and the poor. The oil industry brought in a lot of money and also large number of new families. For those who had grown up in that town, things hadn’t always been so easy. As a result, the classes I attended in the city centre elementary school had both rich and poor kids. And that is exactly where my parents wanted to be. They fought for the rights of their students and saw the potential in a public education that could bridge the financial divide. Years later, I still hear stories of how my mother’s kindergarten class or my dads high school classes changed their lives. It changed my life as well. I grew up knowing that money or power shouldn’t be the deciding factor in your life. Helping others was the only true wealth. That is why I am a teacher today.
I didn’t always want to be a teacher. In fact, I swore I never would be a teacher. That all changed when I got my first taste of what it meant to teach English language students. From that moment on, I was hooked. I finally saw what my parents already knew. The power of change comes from allowing others to see their potential and worth and by loving and respecting them no matter their status. We talk about educational reform and various methods and pedagogical approaches, but the real change comes from listening to the students, loving them for who they are, and helping them to love themselves and others. That is what my parents did and will continue to do until they can’t do it anymore.
Thank you mom and dad. You are not just parents to us three kids, but to the hundreds, and possibly thousands of students who needed someone to see them for who they were. We love you and wish you many, many, many more years of serving others.