For the love of learning! #TeachersChangeLives

EDUCATION, MY VIEWS | | April 22, 2013 at 7:28 pm

When Office Depot asked me to be a  REAL Change blog ambassador, there was no thinking. I mean education + philanthropy + story telling = a winner! For sure! I know there is this thing that you should dread school but I loved school. I mean LOVED school. I loved it to a point of nausea to my sisters who did not share the same feelings, though they did share my teachers. I guess I shared their teachers since they were all older than me. The resentment was fueled by teachers drawing comparisons of “Why can’t you be like your sister?”. That obviously did not go down well and neither did my ridiculous excitement.

I am getting a little side tracked, aren’t I? I was supposed to tell you about my favorite teacher. I was 12 and in standard 5, in American language I think that would be Grade 7. For newer readers I hail from South Africa so that would account for my terminology being different. The year 1985! Stop that already! Calculating my age, were you? Well let me save you the trouble: 40, as in FORTY! Now can we move on (and pick your jaw off the floor)? His name was Mr. Gayapersad and he was of Indian descent since you were only allowed to live and school with people who looked like you <insert a sarcastic thanks to Apartheid here>. He had no kids.We were his kids. In a school that art meant drawing on paper, and where music lessons did not (could not afford to) exist he delved to provide a new world to us. He opened up several worlds to me but most importantly were 3 distinct parts of my life that got me through rough times.

ART OF LIFE!

We explored beyond the paper. Plaster of paris, resin, wood work were but a few elements we explored. I will never forget feeling worthy to work with “expensive” materials. I will never forget that he paid for these out of his own pocket. Art moved to acting and he created plays where we got to act out too. I recall I was Natasha in one play and me feeling sad about my lack of decent clothing to perform, he borrowed his niece’s outfit for the day. I felt like a princess and even though it was just a day the memory of the outfit is etched on my memory.

ARGUING aka DEBATES!

I first began exploring my first debate that year. The taste was sweet and I understood the art of arguing and realized the topic did not matter, as I could argue both sides with zest and conviction. That passion for debates remained with me until the end and allowed to be be on the debating team against several schools (and win). I am grateful for that ability to articulate myself so clearly even today even though my husband is unappreciative of that trait. He does not even bother to enter an argument, claiming that it is hard to argue with me. Score!

A WHOLE NEW WORLD!

So we needed to write better. What better way that to write letters in class? Letters that someone would read. My amazing teacher writes to the mayor of Taiwan and gets a list of kids who would like to be penpals to kids in my class. We would draft our letter. He would correct the grammar in it. He then bought us special paper (lightweight onion skin to be cheaper for airmail) where we wrote out the neat, error-free copy, and he mailed it for us at his cost. I loved my penpal. Her name was Diana and it was a door to a whole new world for me. That door of exploring has not since closed.

My teacher changed my life, and I truly believe teachers are our national treasure!

That year, 1985, my home and town Inanda went up in flames in political riots. I weeped for my school. I evacuated my home and was happy to get out alive, my friend’s family was not so lucky. We joined a new school and thanks to lack of uniforms we stuck out like sore thumbs. That teacher, though, not only helped us ease in the transition but I excelled that year in spite of the changes and finished top of the class. I have not been home in 11 years and writing this post has sparked an interest in reconnecting with this teacher again.

Any brand that supports education gets a (huge) nod in a my book and  Office Depot is the proud sponsor of the star-studded Artists for Education TV Special, airing 4.23.13. Check your local listings or watch exclusively online at www.officedepot.com/realchange. Wondering what REAL CHANGE is? REAL Change is a star-studded, emotional TV special (airing onCBS 4/23) featuring top musical acts, highlighting the heroic role of education and teachers and I am sure Office Depot is proud to admit that they are a “presenting sponsor” of the REAL Change broadcast and official retail partner, I mean who would not be?

• Disclosure: I am an Office Depot REAL Change blog ambassador. This post is part of a campaign where I was compensated for my time. To learn more about REAL Change, visit their website.

6 Comments

  1. 1

    Oh I love this campaign so much! You are such a beautiful storyteller, your childhood sounds like something out of a movie.

  2. 2
    Kim says:

    I’m happy to be part of this campaign as well. When I was in college, I reflected on some of my favorite teachers from my childhood. I, too, realized that most of my faves did not have children of their own and lavished us students with their time, energy and love, not to mention the money they spent on classroom supplies and treats. Other than that, your story is much different and exciting (also challenging) than mine. A good teacher is a treasure no matter where a child lives.

  3. 3
    Glamamom says:

    What a great campaign.It’s so true, teachers can change lives.

  4. 4

    Every day I think about my 7th grade English teacher Mrs. Rabinowitz. Every day I ask my kids to tell me about their teachers and am grateful they are feeling such support and love from them. Our teachers are everything; they are so much of who we become.

  5. 5

    Love this story. Such a cool campaign, too!

  6. 6

    What a cool campaign to be a part of. Amazing what a difference some teachers can make … I have some I remember often and fondly too.

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