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BLANDING: Teachers who impact a lifetime: Who is your Mrs. Lumley?

• Aug 11, 2017 at 3:00 PM

Who from your childhood had a major influence on your life?

There may be several on your list — certainly your parents, siblings, best friend, a coach or perhaps someone from your church. Chances are, however, that on that list there will be the name of a teacher.

My teacher's name was Evelyn Lumley. She taught in several West Michigan districts throughout the mid part of the past century. I had the privilege of having her as my teacher for two different grade levels while I was in elementary school. She retired shortly after my final year with her, but her impact has lasted a lifetime and in no small way led to my choice to become an educator.

What made her so special to me? That is a question I have often asked myself.

I remember a couple of moments in her class. In the first, she told me to "stick to your guns," when I was questioning myself. In the second, I remember Mrs. Lumley disciplining me when I did not treat her as kindly as I should have. Surely these two moments alone did not create the deep appreciation I have for her all these many years later.

In doing a little research, I found a comment from one former student who praised Mrs. Lumley for how she handled her classroom following the assassination of President Kennedy. Another student shared a story of how Mrs. Lumley had braided her hair when it had come undone. In talking with Mrs. Lumley's daughter, she shared that her mother always had a special place for those children who were less fortunate or had hurdles to overcome.

While the educator in me would love to say that what made Mrs. Lumley so special was the way she helped me learn my math facts or how she presented amazing science lessons, both of which I am sure she did, the truth is much different. What I believe made Mrs. Lumley so impactful was who she was as a person and how this influenced the way in which she worked with each unique child.

My father used to say that he did not care as much whether a teacher taught me how to be a great mathematician, but that he or she helped me to become a good person. I am not sure that I have made it there yet, but what I do know is that my special teacher helped further me down that path. Perhaps yours did as well.

While as teachers we should, and will, focus on academic achievement, as educators, we must always remember the whole child and our part in shaping what kind of individual that child becomes. We must remember that it is not so much what strategy or technique we used this year or last, but what connections we made with a child that will last a lifetime.

As we start a new school year, here is to all the Mrs. Lumley’s in the world. To all the teachers who day in and day out strive to be that special person, the ones who believe in a child even when no one else does, the ones who braid hair, bandage a knee or give a hug just when it is needed the most — and finally, even the ones who discipline us when we are being unkind, thank you.

It is my belief that there is, or will be, a Mrs. Lumley in everyone's life. A special someone who finds a way to do more than just teach, but by example and deed, change lives.

Who is your Mrs. Lumley?

Kevin Blanding
 is principal
 of Rosy Mound Elementary School.

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