It Only Takes One Teacher to Make a Difference

May is Teacher Appreciation month, and I wanted to offer my gratitude to two special teachers I had as a child. In general, I did not enjoy school because I almost always felt inadequate compared to my peers. I was a dyslexic student at a time when dyslexia was not understood and often not even recognized for what it was. This made it hard for me, and most of my school memories are an unhappy blur. However, there were two teachers early in my life that I remember very clearly and they both taught first grade.

Photo of my first-grade class. My teachers made a difference for me.

Mrs. Carson (upper left corner of the photo) was my first grade teacher and I have to say that she was probably my favorite teacher. I liked her so much, I took her class twice! Not really, I had to repeat the first grade because I was held back, and Mrs. Carson was my teacher both times. The good news is that I really did like Mrs. Carson. She reminded me of my grandmother. She was very kind and patient with me and never made me feel like I was stupid—and that was good, because I did a fine job of that all on my own. And that’s where Mrs. Davis came into the picture.

Mrs. Davis was a special education teacher and apparently out of concern, Mrs. Carson had consulted with her about my difficulties. It was my understanding that Mrs. Davis had been taking some extension courses about dyslexia and recognized my symptoms. That’s when I was officially diagnosed as dyslexic. From that point forward I was excused from Mrs. Carson’s class for one hour each day and Mrs. Davis worked with me one-on-one and helped me with my reading—and that was a huge turning point in my education.

Even after all of these years I still remember my one-on-one sessions with Mrs. Davis quite vividly. I remember Mrs. Davis opening a book that I liked (mainly because it had a lot of pictures) and the first thing she did was to cover the pictures, which startled me because I had always gravitated to just using the pictures to interpret a story. Once the pictures were covered, she would take a card and place it under a sentence so I could better focus on each word. Then she would step me through each word, identifying the syllables and helping me to sound them out.

Today we have a much better understanding of dyslexia: it impacts much more than just reading, and it doesn’t go away. And although dyslexia was not well understood at the time, the kindness, patience and one-on-one attention that I received from Mrs. Carson and Mrs. Davis helped me tremendously. I will always appreciate their efforts and help. They planted the idea that it was possible for me to learn ways to cope with my dyslexia. When that idea finally took root and bore fruit, it was a crucial revelation in my life.

Who was your favorite teacher and why? I would love to hear from each of my blog readers about the teacher (or teachers) you are grateful for and how they made a real difference in your life.

This jaunt down memory lane got me thinking that it only takes one (or two!) special teachers to make a difference in a child’s life. Clearly, that memory has stayed with me through all these years, because two of my picture books feature caring teachers that made a significant difference in a student’s life. I have been thrilled with the positive feedback that I’ve received from both parents and teachers on how these books have benefited their kids.

In The Incredible Martin O’Shea is about Martin, an energetic boy with a big imagination who has trouble paying attention in school. A visiting professor helps Martin to understand how learning combined with his very active and incredible imagination can help him to enjoy many real-life adventures. View The Incredible Martin O’Shea video.

Cover of the picture book The Incredible Martin O'Shea by Don M. Winn, where one teacher makes a difference for Martin and helps him learn how to make his dreams come true.

The Higgledy-Piggledy Pigeon is the story of a carrier pigeon named Hank who has a poor sense of direction due to dyslexia. Hank’s caring teacher patiently helps him learn to compensate for his learning difference and this has a tremendous impact on his life.
View The Higgledy-Piggledy Pigeon video.

Cover of the picture book The Higgledy-Piggledy Pigeon by Don M. Winn, which shows a caring teacher made a difference for one little pigeon.

For a thorough discussion of the social and emotional support children with dyslexia require, read my award-winning book, Raising a Child with Dyslexia: What Every Parent Needs to Know, available in softcover, hardcover, eBook, and audio.

Cardboard Box Adventures picture books are great for shared reading and can help parents establish a strong preliteracy foundation for their children. Check out the CBA Catalog for a full list of award-winning picture books, chapter books, and resources for parents and educators. Visit my Don M. Winn Amazon author page for more information.