Today I had the opportunity to be with a group of the elementary children in our Academy. What formative years! As I watched the wonderful teachers that God has given us I was reminded again of the powerful influence a teacher has in the life of a student.
It was a kindergarten teacher that led me to Jesus Christ. A very kind high school teacher made it his business to encourage me when I believed God wanted me to be a preacher. Teachers are powerful people. For me, they were divine appointments.
Between my elementary and high school years God brought a godly man across my path. Perhaps because 6th grade is such a critical time, or perhaps just because of his heart, Mr. Hess stands out in my mind. He was a very humble man, who loved teaching and loved his students. I was thirty years old before I realized what a tremendous impact he had made on my life.
One of Mr. Hess’ sons was my best friend. This gave me the opportunity to see him outside of the classroom. Even at home Mr. Hess was a sincere and genuine man. Having grown up now, I can appreciate the fact that this man was strong and gentle at the same time.
While I am confident that many of the young men in Mr. Hess’ 6th grade class most enjoyed the fact that he loved sports, it was something more long lasting that affected me. Each afternoon after lunch Mr. Hess would spend a few minutes reading a good book to the class. One day he asked me to take his place. This was the first of many afternoon “reading assignments” that I was given. Only now am I beginning to fully appreciate all that this instilled in me.
One of the things that I learned was to love good books. Young people learn to love reading by reading. Books are exciting things. They take you on a great adventure and stretch your mind. To this day I love books. (Ask my wife!) My library is filled with good books and my mind is being filled with the truths learned from them. Much of this was set in motion by my 6th grade teacher.
While reading aloud I learned to place emphasis and use expression. There is nothing quite as boring as monotone reading. My Pastor speaks often about God’s unconscious preparation of our lives. This childhood experience, while unconscious to me, was preparing me for what God wanted me to do with my life. In reality, as a 12 year old boy I was being trained to speak with feeling and expression, to articulate and communicate clearly. It was the summer after 6th grade that God called me to preach.
Perhaps one of the most profound encouragements was the confidence Mr. Hess placed in me. Standing in front of my classmates and reading strengthened me. Young men need experience; they need to be asked to lead. We all learn through trial and error. Of all the things I learned in 6th grade nothing stands out like these lessons. No curriculum impacts students like a teacher with a personal interest. Mr. Hess made an investment in my life that will never be forgotten.
I want to be a better teacher because of this. I want to encourage every teacher I know to stay with it. Thank God for teachers!