Tag Archives: thank a teacher

The Teacher Who Made ME Want to Teach


The Teacher Who Made ME Want to Teach I wish I had a photo of her, but unfortunately I don’t.  Her name was Esther Waggoner and her third grade classroom pointed me in the direction of my life’s work: teaching.  I feel certain she taught me multiplication tables, cursive writing, reading and  many other academic subjects.  Plenty of exciting learning takes place in third grade.

I remember another thrill that school year.  Our old school building added a new wing while I was in third grade.  In the middle of the school year we got to pick up our belongings in our arms and carry them to our new classroom.  But none of these reasons are why I mention her here.  It wasn’t the academics or the surroundings that made that year special for me.  It was the enthusiasm of the woman in front of the classroom.

don't ever do this

Mrs. Waggoner just simply taught with Joy.  Messes didn’t seem to bother her.  Noise didn’t freak her out.  She loved children and she loved teaching.  She honestly was having so much fun in her classroom that she made me want to grow up and enter a profession in which I could go to work and have that much fun.

At home my parents belonged to the “Go Play” philosophy of child rearing. “Don’t make a mess or too much noise.  Do your chores and then go play.”  I was fine with that.  I never questioned it.  I loved to play outside from the time my chores were done to the time the lightning bugs came out at night. I honestly had no complaints.  I hadn’t experienced any other way.

Play with us Then Mrs. Waggoner appeared in my life.  She actually played with her students.  I studied her like she was some kind of personal science experiment.  What was this?  An adult who enjoyed playing with children? I had never met another adult like her.  During the winter months when we had a long season of indoor recesses she let us push all our chairs back against the wall and set up bowling pins.  We’d roll the ball knocking those wood pins down over and over again.  She never flinched.

DSC_0390_x2_Iván_Melenchón_Serrano_MorgueFileI remember one month when she even taught us how to square dance at recess time indoors.  She’d  clap her hands to the music and yell out those square dance calls with enthusiasm while we swung our partners and learned to do-si-do. She even danced with us when there was an odd number of students so no one would be left out.

I was hooked.  From third grade on I wanted to grow up and enter a profession that allowed an adult to experience that much joy.  Mrs. Waggoner is the reason I became a teacher.  Of course I taught academics.  Yes!  Students won’t respect a teacher who doesn’t challenge them academically.  But I first considered teaching because of the way that Mrs. Waggoner made me feel.  I wanted to connect with young people in the same way she connected with me.  It was Mrs. Waggoner’s joy that first sent me into teaching.  But it was the connections I made with young people that kept me there.  I’m proud to say that I enjoyed the profession as much as Mrs. Waggoner did.

When I finished college, can you guess where I began my teaching career?  In third grade, of course.

I went to a small town parade this past weekend.  I noticed that when military people and firefighters passed by, the crowd applauded.  I was proud of everyone.  It was exactly the right thing to do.  I was applauding right along with them.

But somehow I wish that teachers were the recipients of some applause and not just the targets of the media and politicians running for office.  It has become fashionable to criticize teachers just the way too many citizens dishonored our veterans when they returned from Viet Nam.

Great teachers deserve applause.  We’ve even seen too many teachers protect their students with their own lives in the past decade.  Today I applaud Mrs. Waggoner, the woman who taught with such enthusiasm that she pulled me toward this important profession.  I hope I have made her proud.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the authordauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Dauna Easley is a speaker who has been invited to speak in 37 states.

Contact:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Teaching Strategies


Making Lessons Meaningful

questions from teensAsk any teacher.  What is the most common question students ask?

 Why do we have to learn this?

In junior high and high school you have to add a whining voice or a sneer…and two more words to the end of that question…

Why do we have to learn this stupid stuff?

Now you’re moving closer to the dilemma that teachers face everyday.  The most effective assignments are meaningful to the students.  What’s even better than that?  Classroom assignments that are meaningful to both the students AND their families.  If you can lasso a lesson like that you are sitting on a throne right on top of the learning pyramid.  Yay you!

Let me describe three lessons I’ve run across in the past couple of years that fit smack in the middle of that category.  As a grandparent who also is a teacher, many school projects the grandchildren are assigned are routed in my direction for guidance and encouragement.  Here are three of my favorites.  My hat is off to the teachers who planned these lessons.

Let’s Talk About Love

let's talk about loveA few years ago my seventh grade granddaughter, Taylor had to build a poetry folder.  She had to select a topic and find poems of all kinds to include in that folder.  Her idea wasn’t unique.  The topic she chose was Love.  I wondered how many hundreds of seventh grade girls over the years had chosen love as their topic?

But the assignment was well constructed and this made the project so much more meaningful.  Yes, the students had to gather love poems and tell why they selected those particular poems.  But they also had to write their own poem about love.  Additionally they had to ask two other people to write love poems that they were to include in their portfolio.

This opened up all kinds of meaningful dialogues about love between my granddaughter and me.  I wrote one of those love poems.  I wrote about what love is and what love isn’t.  I told her a story about the boy I secretly “loved” in high school and how I ended up the maid of honor in his wedding…and how I survived that to love again.  We had so many great conversations as we worked on this project together.  I know those conversations will stay with Taylor forever.  Thank you to Ms. Shannon King from Liberty Junior High for that great lesson.

Looking into the Future

looking into the futureMany teachers wisely look into the future to come up with an authentic assignment for their students.  When my grandson was a junior, he had to write an essay that he might later use as a college admissions essay.  The teacher required them to describe themselves and their talents.  What made them unique?

My grandson, Austin came to me for assistance with this task.  He doesn’t like to write and he especially didn’t want to write something “bragging about himself.”  Those were his words.   He chose to write about his background in sports first. (High school boys like to talk about sports as much as seventh grade girls like to talk about love).

Then he hit a wall.  After he wrote about his experiences in sports he didn’t know what else to say.  He counted the words and found his essay wasn’t long enough. He stewed.  He was completely unaware that he has leadership skills.  And he didn’t have a clue about his greatest talent.  He has a unique gift for making others feel valued.  He brings people together.  I watched him do this his whole life.  I had marveled about it to myself many times.

Why had I never put this into words before?  Why didn’t he know that about himself?   That assignment gave me a vehicle for putting this into words.  He was amazed at the things I was saying.  I gave him many examples from his life to make my point.  He listened and nodded.  You could see it was the first time he recognized this ability within himself.

I know this is another conversation that will stay with a grandchild long after I am gone.  Thank you to Ms. Erin Schneider from Lakota East High School for this authentic assignment.  This essay helped him craft future college essays.  In only a couple of weeks he graduates from high school and he was accepted by the college of his choice.

Looking into the Past

authentic assignmentThe most recent authentic assignment happened this past week and was a reminder and the motivation for me to write this post.  Memorial Day is just ahead.  My eighth grade granddaughter, Kiley, was given an assignment by her language arts teacher.  Each student had to find out about a relative who had died before they were born.  They had to interview family members and ask them a list of questions to learn about their deceased relative and give a speech about them.  What a great way to draw families together to discuss their shared past.

This was an especially significant assignment for Kiley.  My youngest daughter, Kelsey, died of cancer at age 16.  She happened to pass away one week before my granddaughter, Kiley was born.  Kiley is her namesake and was given Kelsey as a middle name.  Kiley has heard stories about Kelsey all her life.  However, she dutifully wrote up her interview questions and I filled them out completely.  She even remembered a couple of stories I had forgotten to include.  She asked me to repeat those stories to her.  We did a lot of gathering photos and she assembled her display board.  She emailed me a picture of her poster before she glued things down.

Kiley's poster

She made it through her speech but her voice quivered a quite a bit.  When her chin started shaking she said to herself, “I can’t cry in this class.  There are too many boys in here!”  Everywhere she looked kids were getting tears in their eyes. She had to skip one of the stories she wanted to use, but she made it through.  A success!

But the greater lesson is what she learned by preparing the speech.  That is the hallmark of an authentic assignment.  Meaningful assignments grow the student.  They are memorable in a significant way.  They open channels of communication.  We think about those assignments for years.  I can picture Kiley decades from now helping her own grandchild with a speech.  I’m sure she’ll tell her grandchild about her quivering chin in her speech when she talked about her Aunt Kelsey whom she never met.  Thank you to Ms. Brooke Schreiber from Liberty Junior for your meaningful lesson.

Thank you to all the teachers who take the time to create authentic assignments.

Choose to TEACH…To Change Lives.

The choice is yours.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Why Teach?


Are the Payoffs Worth the Challenges?

challenges and payoffsLet’s be honest.  In many ways teaching is more challenging than ever.  It has always been a profession which demands a person accept a salary which doesn’t reflect the amount of education, dedication and preparation it requires.

However, it used to be a profession that earned the esteem of parents, community members and the public at large.  That is no longer true.  Today’s teachers are blamed for, and at the same time required to heal, all the country’s challenges…test scores, broken  homes, illiteracy, hard economic times, school calendars, the increase in disabilities and second languages, drug dependency, unemployment, latch key children, and hunger in America.  They are maligned by politicians, billionaires, and celebrities.  That is the teacher’s new reality.

So Why Teach?

Why teach?If you look at just the dismal numerical facts and current public opinion,  it can’t be explained.  However, I have been retired from full-time teaching for three school years now.  I do still work with student teachers at the college level, so I am in and out of schools all throughout the school year.  I feel so “at home” whenever I’m in a school building.  Each one has its own unique personality. Listen to some things I am experiencing right now.

  • Yesterday I was invited to the wedding shower of a college grad whom I had taught in high school.  Four years after she left my classroom I am still important in her life.  She turns to me for advice with frequency.  She values the role I have played in her life and the opinions I have.  She tells me so.
  • Not a week passes that I don’t hear from at least a half-dozen former students.  They share their successes, life milestones, and challenges with me.
  • I received a beautiful thank you note this past week from a former high school student who is now a college graduate.  Four years later, she thanked me again for being her teacher.
  • A week ago I noticed a plastic container in a corner of my bedroom.  I couldn’t remember what was inside.  When I looked inside I discovered dozens of thank you notes from students.  Three years ago when I first retired I decided to put thank you notes from students and their parents in a notebook.  I filled a three-ring binder that was three inches thick.  These (that I rediscovered in the corner of my bedroom) were the left over notes.  I had run out of steam before I finished the job.  I decided to finish the task.  I took another two-inch binder to complete the job.
  • When my former students change jobs, (and sometimes even careers) they write and ask for my advice.  Many times they solicit input from me that they won’t accept from their own family members.  That’s not exactly true.  When they were in my classroom, we became a family.
  • My retirement years may not be flush with funds, but it is a wealth of appreciation and valued relationships.  I can live contentedly with that.

Can You?

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Full Circle


Full Circle

A True Story

Dedicated to All Teachers Who are Returning to their Classrooms in August

When I began to teach about the profession of teaching with high school students, I gave my students a unique assignment. I asked them to write a thank you letter to the best or most memorable teacher they had ever experienced.  The power of this assignment was amazing.  It required my students to focus on the qualities of great teachers and describe those attributes in written words. We could never find all of the teachers my students wanted to thank, of course, but it was a triumph every time one of them received a response from one of their treasured teachers.  They would bring those letters to class and share them orally with everyone.  All the other class members would start hoping anew that they would be the next one to receive a reply.

The first time I ever tried this activity with high school students, I tried to locate Mrs. Harriet Ranson, my former high school science, biology and physiology teacher. As a teenager back in William Mason High School in Mason, Ohio I have to confess, I thought she was boring.  It wasn’t until I attended college that I discovered, too late, just what a great teacher she had been.

At Miami University in the 1960s anatomy and physiology was what we fearfully called a ‘flunk out’ class. If you are from my era, you know the kind of class I’m describing.  The students gathered in a huge auditorium.  The professor was way down in front, barely visible, giving prolific notes, never pausing to explain.  The text was as thick as an unabridged Bible.  Then on test day you’d discover that nothing in the notes or the book had anything to do with the questions you were expected to answer for a grade on the test.  Brilliant students were failing the course.

It wasn’t far into this potential nightmare that I came to an amazing realization. I was having no trouble with the material. While students much brighter than I were at their wit’s ends, I simply somehow knew the answers. It was an astonishing discovery for me, a triumph I owed completely to Mrs. Ranson.  In high school she had quite frankly taught me everything I needed to know about college level anatomy and physiology.

thank a teacher

I knew then what I didn’t have the maturity to realize in high school.  Mrs. Ranson was an incredible teacher.  I started feeling guilty.  I promised myself I would write her a thank you letter and tell her so.  My home town of Mason was small at the time.  I even knew exactly where she lived.  But weeks turned into months, then years, and too quickly even decades.  I never did write that letter. 

It wasn’t until I gave my own students this assignment that I decided to finally follow through and write Mrs. Ranson a long overdue letter of gratitude.  I wondered if she remembered me.  I thought it would be neat to bring in a letter from one of my own former teachers and read it to my students.  But I had waited too long. People can move quite a bit in twenty-five years.  I tried hard but I simply couldn’t find her.

Even more years slipped away until later at my thirty-year high school reunion, I finally received a clue that helped me locate her.  I was asked to be the speaker at our reunion. What a compliment! I was pleased but also more nervous than when I speak in front of an audience of strangers.  Though I was forty-eight years old I felt like a gawky teenager.  But once I began speaking I relaxed; my friends laughed in all the right places and we had a ball.  But it was during this speech, in a poignant moment, I decided to thank Mrs. Ranson.  She wasn’t there, of course, but at least I had the chance to express my gratitude in front of an audience who knew her and would understand.  As I talked about my college experience with the physiology class and the debt that I owed Mrs. Ranson, you could see heads nodding all around me. It was clear, we all agreeed.  Mrs. Ranson was a great teacher. And yet, how many of us actually took the time to say ‘thank you’?

class reunion

One of the big surprises of the reunion evening was that Mrs. Kathy Ross, our old English teacher, actually attended our reunion.  We couldn’t believe it.  Most of us had assumed she was dead.  But we learned that evening that while we had been seventeen and eighteen, she had been only twenty-three and twenty-four.  She had aged well too.  That night we were asking her questions like, “Were you in my chemistry class?” And she would respond, “I was your teacher!”

About a week after my reunion speech, I received a nice card and a note from Mrs. Ross.  A complete thrill.  She told me what a great speech she thought I had made.  Is there anything better than your high school English teacher complimenting you on a speech?  Nothing. Even when you are pushing fifty that still feels wonderful.  I felt like a high school kid again soaking up a teacher’s compliment.

But that card also included two challenges.  First she asked me for a copy of my speech.  I was in trouble there, because I don’t really write out my speeches. I know the stories I’m going to tell and the points I’m going to make, but I never completely write it out because I don’t want my speech to sound memorized.  But how do you tell your old English teacher you didn’t write it down?  So I quickly sat down and typed up what I could remember about what I had said.

Mrs. Ross also wrote, “If you are really sincere about thanking Mrs. Ranson, I have her address.  She moved to Florida years ago, but we still exchange Christmas cards.”

The Letters

There it was in front of me more than thirty years later –  Mrs. Ranson’s address.  Thankful for the second chance I immediately sat down and wrote Mrs. Ranson a letter.  I told her about my college course and let her know how indebted I was to her.  I even sent her a copy of my reunion speech. (Thanks to Mrs. Ross’s assignment, I now had a written version). Amazingly in only two weeks I received a reply.  The answer was handwritten on a yellow legal pad by her husband.

Dear Mrs. Easley,

Thank you so much for your letter and the speech you made at your thirty year class reunion.  They could not possibly have arrived at a better time.  Harriet is currently in the hospital…My wife has not responded to the medication and has been unable to communicate with even me for several weeks.

I took your letter and a copy of your speech to the hospital.  She was unable to read them, of course, so I read them aloud to her.  When I told her who they were from she immediately began talking… all about you.  She told me all about your science project. She remembered and told me that you were a very good student. This is the first conversation I have been able to have with her except for a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ in three weeks.

I have made copies of your letter and your speech and sent them to our sons and their families.  Again thank you so much for taking the time to write. I know these are things we will keep forever.


George Ranson


A teacher and her student

Reaching out to each other

Reconnecting after thirty years,

Each validating the importance of the other.

Did you ever doubt that there is a special bond

Between teachers and their students?

I don’t…not anymore.

The Story Continues…

thank you to my teacher

Mrs. Harriet Ranson

Dauna Easley
Look at the length of cheerleading skirts back then!

For many years the story ended this way.  I had the opportunity to travel the country talking to and encouraging teachers and this was one of the stories I always shared.  It never failed to moisten a few eyes. Many amazing things happened along the way.  When I was speaking in Los Vegas a gentleman came up to me following my speech and revealed that he had been George Ranson’s business partner for years.  He thanked me for sharing such a wonderful story about Harriet and George.   Always after I spoke teachers approached me from the audience and wanted to share stories of special teachers from their past. Many promised to go home and write to them.  And they did.

When I wrote my first book for teachers, Teachers Touch Eternity, I included the Mrs. Ranson story. I tried to send the Ranson family a copy of the book.  But the Florida address was no longer current.  I had lost them again.  It took me many months to locate them once more.  I finally learned that George had passed away and Harriet came home to Mason and lived in her son’s home.  She was bed ridden and not always cognizant by then.  But I went to her son’s home and gave them a copy of the book.

book coverOnce they read the story, they were so touched, that they read the story aloud to Harriet many nights before she went to sleep.  They claimed that she loved hearing it. The family was so moved by the story which was about their mother and contained a letter from their father, that they bought several copies of my book as a memorial tribute to their parents.  They passed them out as a surprise to the extended family members on Christmas Eve that year, and read the story orally to all of them.  That scene gives me goose bumps when I think about it.

Then when Harriet passed away, the Ranson family asked me…her student…to give her eulogy. 

I was proud to do so.

Never, ever underestimate the power of the bond between a teacher and a student.  I believe teaching is a profession like no other. If you enter into it with a desire to honor and elevate not just your students’ knowledge but also their entire lives, you have chosen the right profession.

I’ve just written my second book for teachers.  TEACH…To Change Lives.

Mrs. Ranson’s story is only one of the stories and classoom activities I share in the book.

 Available at Amazon.com