My first interaction at Walsh University encompassed many embarrassing things for me… including falling up stairs… and me making a really awkward comment about a Giant Eagle… but also one of the most defining moments in my life happened that trip.
I remember sitting in on an education class with a good friend of mine who was attending the University. Her professor was Dr. Dunnerstick. Haha I can hear him now.. asking me all of these questions; joking with me and trying to make me feel comfortable but awkward about being in class to observe. We met in his office after class to discuss my future plans for college.
We had such a real conversation.. about life.. and education.. and I just remember thinking that he totally understood why I wanted to be a teacher. He got the philosophy that I believed in. Sure enough, I enrolled at Walsh and had him for my first college class. He pushed me so much as an educator. That first semester… I remember laughing and crying a lot after that class. 😉
I remember he always called my friend, Chloe… Chlo.. with no ‘e’. Chloe and Brittany and I would always die laughing about it. I remember him telling all of these terrifying stories of when he was either teaching or a superintendent. These real life stories that applied what we were learning. The importance of why you need to stay in your classroom; the importance of why you need to understand your students; the importance of why you have to actually care about them if you want to be successful.
Every single time I questioned my profession, I stopped at his office… *knock knock* “Dr. Dunnerstick.. do you have minute?!” There were many conversations that this happened… but I recall one specifically that was a defining moment.. my sophomore year of college this was his response one Thursday morning prior to class…
“Sure, Caroline! Sit down.. what’s going on?”
“I don’t think I can do this.. I don’t think I’m supposed to be a teacher.”
“Sure you are!”
“Dr. D… I don’t think you understand.. I really don’t think I can do this. I CAN’T do this. I have no idea what I’m doing! I can’t be in charge of kids! What if I can’t reach them!? What if they hate me!? What if I do something wrong.. I just don’t think I can do it.”
“Caroline.. you know why I know that you’re going to make a great teacher some day?”
“Because you haven’t even graduated and you’re asking yourself these questions. You’re self-reflecting. And every single one of those questions relate with how much you care for students. Caroline.. YOU are going to impact students. YOU are going to be successful at it. Even though they might be taller than you.. and even though they might call you Miss Piggy (snort snort).. *we both broke into laughter* but, in all serious… stop questioning yourself. You are going to be a phenomenal teacher someday.”
I remember sitting there and I really believed him. He cared. This wasn’t just some bullshit line that he just said.
Flash forward to senior year..
In our clinical class, he was one of the professors that taught the class. Once again, just constantly bestowing his wisdom on us. He was always straight with us and very blunt about the reality of our career paths. He prepared us all so much for the real world and he made me come to terms with the fact that things are NOT going to work out the way we want them to; that we can’t reach every kid; that all parents won’t like us; that some kid is going to disappoint us, or piss us off… but that we should always keep trying.
It is so surreal to me that you’re gone. It’s still surreal to me that roughly 3 and a half months ago I moved across the country for my first teaching job. I can’t believe that 4 years ago I was a freshman walking into your class and beginning the long trek of becoming a teacher. You always pushed me to be the best student I could possibly be. You pushed me to change my perception and attitude towards things and to never give up. Know that the legacy that you have left at Walsh and in my heart will live on forever. Heaven gained a beautiful being inside and out and although I wish it wasn’t your time to go, I will forever be grateful for the impact that you have left on my life. I can only hope that I make that kind of an impact on my students some day.