The Gift of Teaching

Sarah Ritchie Celebrations, Milestones Leave a Comment

I’ve spent more years than I care to admit toiling in various professional positions.  The institutions and places have changed, but one of the most compelling aspects of these job has always been working with young people.  Always. 

May of the strong women in my life self-identified as educators.  I like to tell the story of my grandmother who earned her teaching degree late in life.  Kathryn Frederick was born in 1901 in rural Kansas.  By all accounts she was smart as a whip, and she graduated high school as WW I raged. As such she was granted an “emergency teaching certificate,” so that she could help teach young minds in their country school house, having not yet earned her degree.  Time passed.  She married and had a child.   In her late 40’s, an unexpected divorcee, she needed to find a way to earn a living, so she returned to what was then Central State University, to earn her degree in elementary education, with a job soon following.  Her daughter, my mother, also received teaching degrees.  And, my sister, took degrees in speech pathology, serving her entire career in public schools in central Oklahoma.

My career path would wind a bit more than more fore-mothers, but the common thread in various jobs was working with students in teaching, advising, and supporting roles.    My first teaching role was at the University of Oklahoma, in the economics department.  I taught classes that I loved and felt genuine appreciation from my students.  As an older person, I developed leadership training programs, supervised interns, helped with scholarships and more, and always found it satisfying.  The students come and go, but I think of them often.  In the days of social media and tools like LinkedIn, it is easy to keep in touch with many of them.  As a good number of years have passed, I can now sit back and see how the careers and lives of “my” students have blossomed, and that is enormously gratifying. 

The days of summer are dwindling, and our new class of interns are starting to pack up their things to head back to school.  Along with my twinge of envy that they are still in that magical time of life when all things really are possible, a wisp of sadness washes over me.  For, my brief time in their life (at least on a daily basis), most probably, has passed.    I have great hopes for their future, so when they left the video below for me at our farewell intern lunch, well….I couldn’t hold back a few tears.

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