I still remember the view from the piano bench that day. I was only six and my feet were nowhere near long enough to reach the floor. I remember feeling calmed and encouraged by her voice, a simple woman of petite stature and a kind nature that made me feel safe, like I could play anything in the world. She was nothing special to most people–a small town piano teacher who taught from her home and played the piano at her church. She had a modest life, out of any sort of spotlight or fame. However to me, she was everything.
She was my piano teacher for 11 years before she encouraged me to move onto another teacher before I left for college. I couldn’t understand why she was throwing me out–I had won competitions and auditions, performed extensively, and was excited to continue with a piano performance major in college. I had learned more than I could ever imagine thanks to her, but “it is time to move on”, she said. “I have done all I can as your teacher.”
I definitely didn’t understand then what she meant by that, and it took me until I sent my first high school senior piano student into a college audition just a few months ago for a light bulb to finally turn on. She had introduced me to the joy of learning and she stood beside me and encouraged me while I succeeded and, of course, failed. She shared her enthusiasm for music with me and through her excitement, I was able to find joy in almost anything she put in front of me. And then, when it was time, she let me go, like a mother bird pushing her baby to fly.
Every day, someone takes a moment to show a child how to tie her shoes, spell her name, or braid her hair. Every day, equations are worked (then erased and redone), essays are written (then edited and rewritten), pieces of music are played (then notes are corrected and played again). And every day, a teacher says “it is time to move on”, and the cycle of changing lives starts again.
I will never forget what my first piano teacher did for me when she took me under wing. And more importantly, what she did for me when she passed me on to learn from others. She was the beginning, but her influence endures, and will forever as long as the gift of learning continues.
There is a great collective of teachers who give a piece of themselves every day to their students. And it is our responsibility as students to pass on the gifts of knowledge that our teachers gave us. There will come a time when you, the student, will become the teacher, and you will change the world.
Thank you to our teachers, who have given us the great responsibility and honor of becoming teachers ourselves. For you, we will pass it on.
Tuesday, May 5 is NEA & National PTA National Teacher Day. Take some time to #thankateacher and you could win a $100 Visa Gift Card to give to your favorite educator!