Good teachers last a lifetime — or at least for 30 years

Published 12:30 am Sunday, January 22, 2012

Nearly 30 years have passed since Frank Campanaro sat me down to let me know that, because of my rampant classroom shenanigans and not because of a lack of potential, I was about to repeat the second grade.

He handled the conversation bluntly, but with care. He had no more desire to have me back for another year than I wanted to grace his presence, let alone the scorn that accompanied being left back in school. He told me of the potential that was being wasted and offered to help.

I accepted.

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Two years later on the first day of fourth grade, I again was taught by “Mr. Camp.” The second-grade lessons he gave me got me flawlessly through third grade and, thankfully, through fourth grade, as well.

He was the type teacher every parent should hope their children will have. He was caring, smart and, most importantly, dedicated to his profession. The best teachers are priceless, so much so that they may be recalled more than 30 years later in a newspaper column.

Mr. Camp is not the only one I can recall at the drop of a hat. There’s Frank Hayes, the best high school teacher east of the Hudson River. Mr. Rose taught social studies and gave me my first true glance at the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s in the South. He drank from separate fountains. He used separate bathrooms. He told us about it openly.

Those teachers’ names are foreign here, but great teachers are not a geographical anomaly. How many great ones from your past can you recall? I bet you’ll find many more who have been forgotten.

On Tuesday, 17 educators from around the county will be honored by the Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce during a banquet at the Vicksburg Convention Center. Two will be chosen as Educator of the Year, one in elementary grades and one in secondary.

The Educator of the Year program has been sponsored by the Chamber since 1990. Teachers are nominated by their peers, and a panel of six retired educators reviews resumés and interviews candidates to determine the winners.

As nice as the awards are, I’d bet two donuts against a dollar that the recognition is second fiddle to making a difference in the lives of kids.

Congratulations to the 17 honorees — and those great teachers who were not chosen this year — for a job well done.

Who knows, maybe it will be one of those recalled 30 years later in a newspaper column.