Teacher Appreciation Week 2014: Elementary School and the Power of a Smile

by Jim Lang

I’ll confess that I do not remember precisely what I learned in second grade at Middle Road Elementary School. But I do remember this — I always felt like the most important little kid in the classroom.

That is because my second-grade teacher was Hilda Kendrick.

Hilda Kendrick, now a kindergarten teacher at Utica Elementary in Greater Clark County Schools, was just honored as the Horace Mann/Indiana State Teachers Association Hoosier Educator of the Year for 2014. For 40 years she has taught and shaped the lives of Clark County children in her elementary classroom.

I quickly do the math in my mind. How many young lives have been touched by Hilda Kendrick’s knowledge and generosity? There’s a powerful message there about the impact a special teacher can have on a community. Our community is better because of Hilda Kendrick and her students.

I am blessed that I was one of those children shaped so profoundly by Ms. Kendrick’s kindness, creativity, energy, and smile. That is what I remember most about my second-grade world – Ms. Kendrick’s smile, and the feeling of confidence it instilled in me. I always knew that when I walked into Hilda Kendrick’s classroom that I was in a special place.

My memories of elementary school are not of tests, standards, or even facts. They are of being in a special place with a teacher who made me – and I am sure, all of my peers – feel special.

That, I believe, is the true power of a great teacher – the ability to make his or her classroom special. Memorable. A place where each child feels valued when he enters and understands a bit more about himself when he inevitably leaves.

That is what the great teachers in my life did for me. Hilda Kendrick was one of the first. But she certainly was not the last.

Tuesday: Patience, Priesthood, and a Middle School Prediction

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