In Praise of an Excellent Teacher | By: Andrea Lovanhill This week's blog is written by Client Support Specialist Andrea Lovan. Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week, and I have to admit it made me quite nostalgic for one or two educators who made a difference in my life. I was not an easy child to deal with, and I’m sure I owe many teachers a debt of gratitude for the patience and support they showed throughout my academic career. One educator in particular was instrumental in building my confidence, helping me form lasting bonds with adults and other children, and creating a caring environment in which I could learn. That person was Ms. Butler, a fifth-grade teacher at Natcher Elementary School in my home state of Kentucky. I wasn’t a trouble-maker. On the contrary, I rarely got involved in the drama that seemed to captivate the other girls in my class. By fifth grade, the majority of my peers were fighting over boys and spewing gossip about other children and their families. I remember feeling lucky that I was the tallest girl in the school. This meant that I was imposing. Insults were usually said behind my back rather than out in the open. When I say I was not an easy child to deal with, I mean that my shyness in the classroom coupled with difficulties at home made it hard for me to form deep connections with my peers and teachers. Without these connections, I entered fifth grade with a definite dislike for all activities associated with my elementary school. Ms. Butler changed all that. Rather than punishing and scolding me for missed homework, she asked the important question of why my homework was not done. She set up meetings with my family to get a better understanding of what I was going through when I wasn’t at school and created a homework plan based on positive reinforcement. She spoke to the class as if we were human beings with our own feelings and opinions and let us know that she valued our input. She was not afraid to give us a hug or a reassuring word if we really needed it. I left Ms. Butler’s classroom with two best friends, both of whom I keep in touch with to this day; two new extracurricular activities; and a better attitude. She taught me that caring about others was not a weakness. She taught me the value of being involved in the world around me. And I will be forever grateful. Tune in for next week's blog by Outreach Specialist Michael Moretsky.