May 2, 2023
As a third-grader, I didn't fully grasp the impact my teacher, Mrs. Drummond, would have on my life. Looking back, I can confidently say she positively affected me in several ways, and I am very grateful.
Mrs. Drummond was more than just my third-grade teacher. Aside from my parents, she was my first role model as a child. I went to a small school staffed with predominantly white teachers. As one of two Black educators, who also served as vice principal, she taught me the importance of hard work, and striving for excellence.
She had a way of making every student feel seen and heard.
When I first met Mrs. Drummond, I was struck by her warm and welcoming demeanor. She had a way of making every student feel seen and heard, which was especially important for me as a shy young learner. Her teaching style was engaging and interactive, which made learning both fun and memorable. She had such a graceful presence. I remember her gliding across the schoolyard with her signature walk; and you could always tell when she was nearby because of her signature scent. She was classy and kind, but make no mistake, she also meant business. Mrs. Drummond made it abundantly clear that she had high expectations for her students. And when she needed to discipline a room full of 8-year-olds, she used the titles “Master” and “Miss” before our names to emphasize the respect she had for us and the potential she knew we all possessed. It built self-confidence in so many students, including me.
I kept close to Mrs. Drummond until I graduated from the school in the eighth grade. In the five years after she was my teacher, I broke out of my shell and went on to be elected to the student council, and I become a lead singer in chorus, all because she taught us to be leaders.
One of the most important lessons she taught me was that success was not just about being smart or talented, but also about being of service to others.
Mrs. Drummond eventually moved on to another school when I was in high school; and by college, we’d lost touch. But I never forgot her or her lessons. Perhaps one of the most important lessons she taught me was that success was not just about being smart or talented, but also about being of service to others. She went above and beyond to ensure that we were well-rounded individuals—often taking us on field trips to a nursing home nearby to read to the elderly.
Recently, I got a phone call from an unknown number, but the voice on the other end was as familiar as ever. Mrs. Drummond was calling to check on me, her “dear heart,” as she referred to all her students. I was so excited to give her an update on my life and to thank her for the immeasurable impact she made, even beyond the time I spent in her classroom. As I reflect on my experiences with her, I am reminded of the power of education and the influence teachers still can have on their students 30 years later.
Her dedication to her students and to the field of education set a standard of excellence that I continue to strive toward.
Mrs. Drummond let me know that in 2021, after a 57-year career of being committed to her students and her work, she finally retired. Her dedication to her students and to the field of education set a standard of excellence that I continue to strive toward. The way I choose to show my appreciation is by following in her footsteps and making a positive difference in the lives of those I encounter.
Looking for ways to thank a teacher? Check out these resources from Share My Lesson:
- Kindred Spirits: Teacher-to-Teacher Appreciation: Learn how these educators show appreciation to their teacher squad and while it’s not only imperative to value your fellow colleagues, but also to practice self-appreciation.
- Teacher Appreciation: The Gift of Relationships: In this blog by Amber Chandler, the veteran teacher shares what has been the most fulfilling part of her teaching journey and the greatest form of appreciation she’s received.
Are you a school administrator looking for tips on how to retain your best and brightest teachers?
- Attract and Retain Educators and School Staff: This report by the AFT Teacher and School Staff Shortage Task Force spells out practical solutions that will improve teaching, working and learning conditions. Download the report for real-world ideas that can help.
Do you aspire to be a teacher with an impact like Mrs. Drummond? Consider finding a veteran teacher to be your mentor.
- Importance of Mentors: Video-Based Empowerment Lesson: We’re not born with instructions on how to do what we want. That’s where mentors come in. Find out who mentors are and how they can help you achieve your dreams!
Legacy as Resistance: Because of Her, I Am …
Have you ever been impacted by someone you have never met? Have you ever thought about all the things that could have occurred, but didn’t? This Black History Month and throughout the year, I honor and celebrate Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune for the platform created for a young girl like the me I used to be.
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Natalie Dean is the assistant director, affiliate engagement, for Share My Lesson at the American Federation of Teachers. She manages the site's outreach strategy and national contests, while promoting its value to AFT members to more than 3,000 local AFT affiliates.