Gr8chefmb's Blog

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Teachers That Have Impacted Me August 19, 2009

I’m sorry I haven’t posted anything in awhile…had to meet a deadline to get my Fall 2009 catalog to the printer. I have also begun updating my work website. I should actually be doing this now, but my brain seems to be mush. I suppose that is probably true most of the time (Just ask my family, friends and coworkers…LOL!), but it is especially so after working frantically for a few days. My catalog arrived from the printer yesterday and looks great. I just have to distribute it now…woohoo! (P.S. If you want to see it, visit and click on the icon on the right side of our homepage.)


I saw a request on our local newspaper’s website that asked for stories about teachers who made an impact on their students. It got me to thinking, especially after attending my district’s convocation this morning. The featured speakers were Patrick Henry Hughes and his father Patrick John Hughs. If you are a regular viewer of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, these names might sound familiar to you. Patrick Henry was born without eyeballs and with an affliction that prevents him from being able to move his limbs freely and easily. He is unable to walk because of this affliction, so he gets around in a wheelchair. Patrick Henry is now 21 years old and a senior student at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. He is pursuing a degree in Spanish. One of the remarkable things about Patrick Henry is that he is musically gifted; he plays piano and trumpet beautifully and sings well, also. After he graduated from high school and entered U of L, the band director invited him to join the U of L marching band. As he himself pointed out, his mobility comes from a wheelchair; how in the world would he march??!! This is where his father Patrick John comes in. He attends school with his son as well as marching band rehearsals; for half-time shows, he pushes his son around on the field. How cool is that? A number of people wrote to ABC to nominate the Hughes family for a home makeover, and they were selected. Not only did they get a beautiful new home, easily accessible by Patrick Henry, but ABC also renovated the U of L practice field to make it easier for the Hughes to maneuver on it. [To watch this episode online, click here:]


Another remarkable trait of Patrick Henry is that he feels his lack of eyesight and ability to walk is ‘no big deal.’ It has not hindered his education or life. He has recorded a CD, published a book (I Am Potential published by De Capo Lifelong Books and available at], and travels all over the world, all while still keeping up with school work. He has made only 5 or 6 Bs in his entire education.


His parents admitted that they were devastated when he was born, but they adjusted their vision of what they hoped his life would be. He has definitely NOT disappointed them. He hopes to become a Spanish translator and eventually embassador to a Spanish-speaking country. If that doesn’t happen, he wants to host his own game show, “Stash of Cash.” He has never complained about his situation or his condition, and he has not let it stand in his way. Of course, it helps that his parents and his two brothers are willing to sacrifice so much for him to be the person he is.


As I listened to his father and him speak, they constantly thanked the wonderful teachers Patrick Henry had all throughout his education. His parents made the decision to mainstream him into regular classrooms because they felt he had the ability to excel.  This so true of the majority of teachers I have had throughout my life. The following is a tribute to my favourite classroom teachers.


I am the proud product of the Mesquite Independent School district. I attended Rutherford Elementary, Agnew Middle and Mesquite High schools from 1971-1984. With very few exceptions, I enjoyed the teachers I had along the way. However, several teachers stand out for me and bring back fond memories – Norma McConathy, Dr. Bill Sefzik, brothers Darryl and David Dearing, Jimmy Jones, and last but definitely NOT least, Darla and Wayne Hodgson.


Norma McConathy was my fourth grade teacher at Rutherford Elementary. She was such an interesting person and an awesome teacher. She owned an unusual pet named Clyde. Clyde was a boa constrictor, and Mrs. McConathy would bring him to school occasionally; that was always fun. She also made learning fun by incorporating different activities into our school day. She had this book of holidays from around the world, and we would discuss something new nearly every day. For Chinese New Year, we constructed a dragon and made paper Chinese lanterns. It took weeks to construct this dragon out of a corrugated cardboard box, those curlicue packing peanuts and tempera paints. We received special permission to parade up and down the hallways so other classes could see what we had done. Mrs. McConathy was also huge fan of the original Star Trek television series. I was not a big fan of that show until fourth grade; Dad always watched it and I could never understand why. If you did not want to do work, all you had to do was to mention Star Trek and Mrs. McConathy would take off like a rocket (no pun intended). She could discuss that show for hours, and she had even constructed models of the ships featured in each episode. The models hung from the ceiling in a corner of the classroom. Besides helping me to become a lifelong Trekkie, she also gave me an appreciation for other cultures. Sadly, Mrs. McConathy passed away a number of years ago. My prayer is that she is converting angels into Trekkies, too.


Dr. Bill Sefzik started his career with the MISD when I entered the fifth grade. He was a new teacher and he was so full of ideas that were so outside the box. I must admit that I was a lazy student all the way through school. I did try a little harder in his class, though. We started learning history in fifth grade, and he made it come alive for his class. We did not just memorize dates; we learned about what actually occurred on those dates. We also learned a bit about the back-story of those events and why they were so historically important. Dr. Sefzik also wanted to ensure that we succeeded in math skills. His solution was that if we did exactly what we were supposed Monday through Thursday, we would get to have some fun on Fridays by playing Math Football or Math Baseball. He would draw the field on the blackboard, and divide us into teams. Questions were asked, and depending on the difficulty as well as whether or not it was answered correctly, each team would gain yards or score base hits and points would be awarded. Dr. Sefzik was also interested in encouraging us to write. To that end, he would give us a creative writing assignment once a week. He would propose a topic or an idea, and we would have to write. I actually loved doing those assignments because I have a very fertile imagination. As a reward, he organized kickball tournaments with the other fifth grade classes. These were so much fun although I have no athletic ability whatsoever. It was a welcome break from the same old classroom routine. Because I had Dr. Sefzik, I gained a deep appreciation for history and I was not scared to complete writing assignments. I still have difficulty in math, but I had fun trying to learn. Dr. Sefzik is still part of the MISD; he currently is principal at Kimball Elementary.


Brothers Darryl and David Dearing bring back many fond memories from sixth grade through my freshman or sophomore year of high school. Jimmy Jones brings back fond memories for the rest of high school. David was the orchestra director of Agnew Middle School, and Darryl filled the same position at Mesquite High School. David came to Rutherford to talk about orchestra at the beginning of my sixth grade year. I told my mother about it, and about how I wanted to play violin. From that point forward, my love of music grew exponentially. David would come to Rutherford twice a week, and I would get to skip P.E. to learn how to play my beloved violin. Although I have no natural rhythmic abilities (and so some people tell me, I probably am tone deaf), I did okay. David became my full-time instructor when I entered Agnew Middle School. Darryl would come over and help his brother out, especially when preparing for contests and concerts. They both had great senses of humor, and they were both excellent teachers. Darryl worked with me on my solo for contest. They weren’t always the most patient of teachers but it was obvious that they loved teaching and working with kids. David actually helped me get my first ‘real’ job. I was a beginning violin teacher at Norris Family Music the summer between my freshman and sophomore years. I had a lot of fun teaching both kids and adults.


When the Dearing brothers left the MISD, our orchestra was taken over by Jimmy Jones. Mr. Jones was an unknown quantity because we did not know him. We did not know from where he came, and we did not know his teaching style. If my memory is correct, he and his wife came from Temple, Texas. Mind you, this was around the time that the infamous Guyana tragedy occurred, and as our director shared the same name as the leader of that cult, we thought it would be funny to tease our new director by giving him Kool-Aid. He immediately put a stop to that kind of teasing and let us know he meant business. We did eventually discover he had a wonderful sense of humor and he really did care about his students. His wife was also an orchestra teacher, and she would often help in class, too. They were a lovely couple and eager to teach all they knew about music. They both would give us the back-story on composers and the history of particular pieces of music. During my junior year, our orchestra took a trip to Corpus Christi to participate in a music festival. We stayed in Port Aransas on Mustang Island. One night, we headed to the beach, and built a small campfire. As a joke, Mr. Jones wore a rainbow-colored umbrella hat. Beach Patrol came by and visited us to tell us that fires on the beach were illegal. I cannot tell you how quickly that umbrella hat disappeared when Beach Patrol pulled up. Mr. Jones also let students hang out in his office in the mornings before the first bell rang. We would talk about all sorts of topics, listen to the radio or practice. All three of these men gave of themselves and their time rather freely. Their care and fondness for helping students succeed was obvious. On a personal note, they all gave me a deep love of music, and the freedom to enjoy so many different genres of music. To this day, whenever I hear Smetana’s Themes from The Moldau, a Willie Nelson song or Soul Strings, I smile because it makes me think of these men and their impact on me. Unfortunately, I do not know where these teachers are today. I wish I did, though.


Darla and Wayne Hodgson are very special and dear to my heart. Mrs. Hodgson was my speech and debate coach in high school. Her husband, Wayne, was a teacher at Agnew Middle School. When I was in seventh grade, the speech class performed for the student body. That looked like a lot of fun, so I wanted to sign up for speech in eighth grade. Sadly, that class was removed from the curriculum. I had to wait until my sophomore year in high school. Mrs. and Mr. Hodgson just were not your typical teachers. By that, I mean that they didn’t just teach from 8:30a to 3:30p. They spent a lot of extra time before and after school with their students. They didn’t impart education just on speech and debate, either. They imparted lessons on life. We spent a lot of time together to prepare for speech and debate tournaments. They both helped us to rehearse speeches and sharpen our debating skills. They also helped us to improve on our research skills so we could be as prepared as well as we could. They transported us back and forth to tournaments, and in my senior year, helped organize our parents as speech/debate boosters. We could talk to them about anything, and they would lend a shoulder to cry on, helping hand, gentle discipline, etc. They both had wonderful senses of humor as well as gentle, kind and patient natures. It is because of their care, love and coaching that I am reasonably comfortable in speaking in front of groups. I can even speak extemporaneously when needed because they gave me the freedom to be interested in a variety of topics. They helped me to become well read and to understand current events. They also taught me how to be empathetic and to treat others as well as I would like to be treated. Sadly, I lost contact with them a few years after I graduated.


The majority of my teachers were excellent, but these particular individuals stand out in my memory. They all share one common trait – the ability to think outside the box and find new ways to motivate their students to be the best they could possibly be. My life is richer for having known them and being good examples. I cannot imagine what I would be like if I had not had the honor and pleasure of knowing them. My wish and hope is that all students everywhere have even one teacher that can be half of what these teachers were to me. Once I pass college algebra, I plan to become a teacher and hopefully follow their example. To Mrs. McConathy, Dr. Sefzik, the brothers Dearing, Mr. and Mrs. Jones, and Mr. and Mrs. Hodgson, I offer my most humble and sincere thanks and gratitude. I am sure I probably did not show my appreciation back then, but I hope that some way, somehow they know how much they meant to me.


I have been blessed and fortunate to receive the benefit of a number of teachers in my life, and not all of them have been classroom teachers. First and foremost on this list is my parents. I have learned so much throughout the years, and I continue to learn from them. I have also been blessed with four sisters and one brother from whom I have learned. There are almost 16 grandkids/nieces and nephews (At this time, the 16th has not been born yet; she will arrive on 25 Aug 09.) and I am continually amazed at what they know and how they impart that knowledge. One of these grandkids is my own son. I also have a wonderful group of friends that have taught me many things over the years of their friendship. In the course of my job and volunteer activities, I have learned more than a few lessons. Watching programs such as Extreme Makeover: Home Edition has taught me many things. Last, but most definitely NOT LEAST, God is also my teacher. His life is an example of how to live, and His book contains the guidelines for following in His footsteps.


Education is such a resonant concept for me; I work for our local community education department of our local school district. I constantly read and do research to education myself. I pay attention to current events and how they impact our lives. If you know me well, you have heard me say this on more than one occasion, “The day is wasted if you have not learned at least one new thing.” I strongly believe that and try to hold true to that concept.


I am sorry this post is so lengthy this time. Perhaps, it makes up for not posting for over a week. 🙂


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