My Favorite Teacher

Every student has one. A favorite teacher. Perhaps yours was an elementary teacher who knew how to make Band-Aids not hurt when they helped you rip one off. Perhaps they made a model volcano explode and you thought it was the greatest thing in the world. Maybe your fifth grade teacher finally helped you understand fractions. Or that 8th grade history teacher who threw on an authentic Civil War coat and reenacted Pickett's charge outside the school on a blazing hot day.

For me it was Mr. Ogline in 5th grade, Madame Schneider for high school French, and Mr. McLaughlin for AP American History and AP European History. I did my first experiments with Mr. Ogline who took us for nature hikes, showed me how to use a microscope, and helped me realize I could never do anything with science. Madame Schneider is the reason I became a teacher. She took me to France, told me right away when I declared I wanted to be a teacher how wonderful I would be, and always listened. Mr. McLaughlin never called me Natasha, but Miss Ward. He expected me to know everything about England since that is where I am from, and always gave me a chance.

I am not here to talk about my past teachers this National Teacher Week. I am here to talk about a current teacher of mine. I am not so much a student in this woman's classroom, but I am a student of hers in the manner of being the best teacher I can possibly be. I have worked with the same school district since 2003, yet I have only had the pleasure of working with Dr. Patty Buffington since 2013. I would hear her present and speak at certain in-service events, but not see her daily interactions.

Dr. Patty Buffington teaches math at our high school where once you enter her room the expectation is set, she is ready to go, and she will not let you forget it. She is at the building each morning by 7 a.m. ready to help anyone if they show up. She will give you example after example -- quadratic equation, Pythagorean Theorem, graphs and x/y axis -- until she's blue in the face. And she will go until you get it. You have to be this way to be an effective math teacher, and I say effective. There are too many ineffective teachers to count nowadays. Expect homework from the Doc. No tests on Mondays or Fridays. Dr. Buffington loves her classroom, her rows and desks, white boards and expo markers, softball posters on the walls, calculator bins on her cart. "Buff" is always there to help you. She'll stop what she's doing and be in that moment with you. You have her attention. She is yours for those few minutes or however long it takes.

Buff also claims Head Varsity Softball Coach as part of her signature on her emails. She can take a group of dramatic, rowdy, PMS-ing teenager girls and get them to forget everything else but the game at hand. She can wear them down and they still show up the next day. She can sit with her star pitcher and discuss strategy, she'll send signals across the field to her batter or short-stop, she'll get up and cheer them out as they take the field for defense on each inning. She will listen to what her players have to say.

I have faced some hard times in my teaching career. Not everyone I have worked with understands or wants to understand my approach. I have never felt judged by Dr. Buffington. She'll sit and listen to me, give advice whether it be teacher related or not. But she'll listen. She's not checking emails or her phone, she's not grading papers, she's listening to me. When I talk to her, she make me feel like a priority. How many of us can say that is how we are all the time?

Buff, thanks for taking your time with me. Thanks for listening. Thanks for offering the advice I need to hear. Thanks for making me feel like I am a part. I truly appreciate it.