|Mrs. Olive Johnson|
After a few weeks, Mrs. Johnson had left no doubt in my mind that she was in for the long haul when it came to shaping my behavior. By the end of the school year, I began to realize that her goals for me and her other students were aimed much deeper than simply sanding off our splinters and rough edges necessary for us to sit, listen, and learn. She performed many acts that demonstrated her desire to build up our inner character. For example, I remember the fun of coming to the door of our classroom each morning during the last few weeks of school in May, 1954 to see the tally of how many of days of school remained. Greeting us each morning was a small poster she had made to report the number of school days remaining, along with a short proverb or another quote for the day to challenge each of us to finish the year well.
|Received on my birthday, 1987|
On the last day of school, Mrs. Johnson gave us each the gift of a book, Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories, which contains many character-building short stories. I recalled many wonderful hours as a boy reading my favorite stories from the book. Later, when I became a father, I used Uncle Arthur’s to teach our children; and, more recently I have read from the book to our grandchildren.
|With Mrs. Gardner-Weber, at age 100.|
It is an unexpected blessing to me that Mrs. Gardner, now Mrs. Gardner-Weber, twice a widow at age 102, remains a good friend and encourager. She is a friendly encourager to fellow residents of her assisted living facility and still plays the piano which Abby and I enjoy when we visit her.
God blessed me with many fine teachers from my elementary years through high school. During my freshman year at Malone College as a history major, I enrolled in General Biology to complete my “life science requirement.” This choice brought me under the teaching of Dr. Charles C. King, known affectionately as “Charlie” by his faculty peers. I could tell that Dr. King cared about us and loved biology, particularly botany and ecology. I enjoyed learning the common and scientific names of local tree and shrub species. When I returned to my farm home for the summer, my elementary knowledge of plant identification caused me to view the family farm in an entirely different light. Until then, my “simple taxonomy” of plants on the farm had consisted of five categories--trees, shrubs/vines, wildflowers, mosses/ferns, and fungi. But now my taxonomy allowed me to view plants in a systematic fashion based on the concept of genera and families of plants.
|Dr. Charles C. King, Prof. of Biology|
After graduation from Malone and a June, 1969 wedding, Abby and I were both hired as English and biology teachers respectively, at nearby Dover High School. By God’s good grace, we lived close enough to Canton, Ohio to make it possible for Dr. King to continue as a mentor to me. “Charlie” encouraged me to enter graduate school and introduced me to the plant biology program at The Ohio State University, his alma mater, and to West Virginia University where we attended a “Geobotany Conference” organized by another “Charlie,” Dr. Charles H. Baer.
We were blessed to receive a doctoral fellowship through the West Virginia University Foundation which allowed Abby and I along with our little, 1-year-old son, Bradley to establish our home in Morgantown with Abby as a stay-at-home mom. God honored our decision to make church attendance a priority, and through a visit and presentation of the claims of the Gospel of Christ by lay leaders at the local Christian Missionary Alliance Church, I was led to an assurance of my salvation by grace as God’s gift through Christ’s death and resurrection. This visit to our home by Leroy Haenze and Pearl Langdon launched me into a period of spiritual growth and transformation that included valuing the importance of pursuing the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, study, memorization, and meditation so that I could teach and entrust these to faithful men and women who would be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2).
|Dr. Alan W. Haney, professor, author, land steward, and friend.|
It soon became clear to me that Dr. Haney loved the students and was very enthusiastic about both botany and botany teaching. He emphasized the importance of learning the names of each student at the start of each semester, and to be well prepared to engage with students in a personable and enthusiastic manner. As a young lecturer who was still finding his confidence as a science educator, I was timid but teachable. To the extent that I was willing to risk failure, Dr. Haney was available to move me forward with a gentle, caring spirit; and for that, I regard him as a great mentor and friend.
Alan W. Haney’s love for students, his enthusiasm for botany and science education, and his use of inquiry laboratories and an emphasis on concept learning to teaching science were all influential in shaping my own approach to college science teaching. Fittingly, Dr. Haney’s recommendation was an important part of my successful application to teach at Cedarville College several years later.
|Ruth and Merlin Ager|
Thanks for reading (or skimming) my expressions of thanks to five former teachers on this Teacher Appreciation Week. However, I must confess my regret of not expressing my thanks and appreciation to them more often, particularly to the first four teachers who invested so much in me during the years when I had not yet learned how fitting and encouraging it is to thank and honor ones teachers. Thankfully, the last four teachers of the five I have featured are still alive, and I hope to thank and honor them again in the days ahead. Who among your teachers can you honor with a heart-felt thanks?