Cogito Patris

Random Thoughts for Random People

An Ode to Miss Konizer

While I was at my mother’s retirement dinner I ran in to some of my old teachers. 

Coach Driskel was retiring as well…I had him for Phys Ed.  Though he “only” taught in phys ed, don’t think that is wasn’t loved by his students.  He was a point of stability, compassion and honesty when a classmate was recently killed in a car accident.

I also ran in to one of my old football coaches, many of my mother’s friends that I recognized and a few teachers I recognized, but never actually had them as teachers.

And then last, and certainly not least, I ran in to Miss Konizer.

I think in everyone’s life there is a teacher that made a bigger impact than the others.  For my bride, it was a third grade teach that saw past her reading issues (my wife was born blind) and got her in to the gifted and talented (GT) program. 

For me, it was Miss Konizer: My 11th grade chemistry teacher.

First, an aside about education system changes.

From time to time I hear about how poorly the American education system stacks up against other education systems in the world.  Often “Average Test Scores” are used to back up this claim.

The easiest, and probably best, explanation for the difference in test scores is that in America, everyone is allowed to continue in education, even if they are not the best.  Japan kicks out most of the kids at the end of elementary school.  As a result, only the best and brightest actually take the test.  In America, everyone takes the test and people who are not cut out for academics will drag down the average score. 

So, many people will say that we should follow the same structure…kick out the kids who are not cutting the mustard.  I have two big arguments against that approach.

First, it puts a lot of pressure on young kids to achieve academic excellence.  While the end result is good…a society with really smart people, the methods tend to eliminate the fun from childhood  and raise the suicide rate (Ok, that is a statistic that I sorta remember from back when i was in school.)

Second, I was diagnosed with Disgraphiabefore my fifth grade year.  Of course I didn’t catch up to my peers before the end of elementary school.  As a result, this proposed system would have washed me out before I really had a chance.  I graduated in the top 25% of my class, I bet that my elementary school and middle school teaches would NEVER have guessed that both because of my learning difference and because I had not reached the appropriate level of maturity yet.

Third, it doesn’t seem fair to hold back an exceptional child because of kids like me who were not yet caught up.  I like the idea of a GT program.  I am concerned that “Standards of Learning” and “No Child Left Behind” are negatively impacting those students who really are exception and have a head start.  They are being asked to slow down, and I don’t think that is right.

Now back to Miss Konizer:

Like I said, I was a late bloomer.  I showed promise in math and science before the 11th grade, in fact, I was quite frustrated with my classmates who didn’t understand Algebra.  I also basically taught my geometry class.  But it was Miss Konizer who recognized me.  She had me take a national association of chemistry test to get a scholarship.  I did quite poorly, but it did give me the confidence that she believed in me.  Then, she did the best thing ever.  She asked me to apply to what was then the Central Shenendoah Regional Governor’s School (Now just Shenendoah Valley Governor’s School)

This was the first year the class would be in existence.  and it was intended to only be for the best and brightest in math and science.  But I didn’t think that I was one of those “Best and Brightest” type people.  Low self esteem and a late start academically had ruined my confidence.  But, she was insistent.  I’m so glad she was.  I got in.  Not only that, but I excelled.  That one event lead me to JMU where I took a chance on another brand new program – Integrated Science and Technology (the second year).  That is where I met my wife and learned the problem solving and computer skills that serve me well to this day.

I recognize that teachers are drastically underpaid (after all, my mother is/was a teacher).  I also recognize that they work primarily for the chance to possitively impact the lives of their students.  That is their motivation.  I also recognize that they don’t get to hear how big an impact they give…at least not often enough.  So when i ran in to Miss Konizer at my mother’s retirement dinner, I told her how big of an impact she had on me and how grateful I am.

However, yet again I stumbled across words that were empty compared to the emotions I was trying to convey.  I think I adequately expressed myself…I’m pretty sure I made her night.  I only wish I could meet my own expectations in this respect.  Whatever the word is that I was trying to define to describe my mother, should be used to describe Miss Konizer as well…

So, to all of our teachers who give us all so much and ask so little, this one’s for you:



May 1, 2008 - Posted by | Family, Random Thoughts

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