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The Reflective Teacher: My Most Memorable Teacher by Monica Breaux

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Monica Breaux, who teaches first grade in an urban Louisiana school, was named her school's Teacher of the Year after her first year teaching!

Monica Breaux
When I think back to my most memorable teacher, I immediately recall Mary Justice, my journalism teacher during my junior and senior years in high school.

What I remember most about Mrs. Justice is that she treated me (and everyone else in the class) with so much respect. She showed so much love for her profession and so great an awareness of what her role in the classroom was, that her attitude eventually rubbed off on me. She was everything I could have asked for in a high school teacher. I didn't know it then, but she also was a model for my future.

Mrs. Justice gave me the skills to become a strong leader and she taught me how to become a responsible and productive member of society. In my junior year, she showed me how much confidence she had in my leadership abilities when she appointed me copy editor of the school yearbook. There I was -- a junior holding that important job -- while seniors occupied the jobs of editor-in-chief and photography editor. I was very nervous, but also I was elated that Mrs. Justice had chosen me for that position.

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The next year -- my senior year -- Mrs. Justice appointed me editor-in-chief of the yearbook, which boosted my confidence even further. I was very shy and quiet in high school. Although I had many friends, I kept to myself a lot, especially after my boyfriend (now my husband of 17 years!) graduated, a year before I did.

I spent almost all my free time, between classes and before dismissal, in Mrs. Justice's classroom. I could talk to her about anything and everything; she was always there to listen. I had never before had a teacher who showed that she cared about me as a real person the way Mrs. Justice did.

Mary Justice had a tremendous affect on my life and on my career choice. Although she encouraged me to go to college after high school, I wanted to get married first. Still, after I graduated from high school, Mrs. Justice and I stayed in touch. We met occasionally over the next few years, and she always asked if I was going to go back to school.

I will never forget her reaction when I told her I had registered to go to Nicholls and become a teacher. Her face lit up, and I knew at that moment that I had made her proud of me. She told me I was going to be a great teacher one day. Little did Mrs. Justice know that it was because of her I had chosen a career in teaching. I wanted to be just like her -- except I wanted to teach younger children.

I started college about ten years ago, the summer before my older son, Derek, started kindergarten. That summer, the principal of our local elementary school retired, and it was announced that a new principal was going to be appointed for the fall. Here I was, just getting used to going back to school myself, and I was sending my 5-year-old to a school full of complete strangers!

I was having a hard time dealing with that when...guess who was named principal of Bourg School? Yes, much to my delight and relief, the new principal was Mary Justice! My husband and I were ecstatic.

So, as Derek started his education at Bourg School, Mrs. Justice began her career as its principal. In addition to having had a strong impact on my life, Mary Justice now was going to have an influence on my children's lives as well.

When Derek started third grade, my younger son Tyler began kindergarten. Mrs. Justice and I stayed in close contact throughout the entire time my boys attended Bourg -- from the beginning of Derek's kindergarten year through the end of Tyler's fourth grade year. Mrs. Justice allowed me to do most of my field experiences at Bourg School as well. I even substituted and volunteered there before I got my first teaching job.

This is the first school year that I don't have a child at Bourg; Tyler is in fifth grade and Derek is in eighth grade at Montegut Middle School. It makes me happy, though, that Mrs. Justice got to see both Derek and Tyler grow and begin to emerge as smart and responsible young men under her supervision. I am very thankful I have had someone like Mary Justice in my life.

I hope my students remember me the same way I remember Mary Justice. I want them to remember how much I care for each of them. I want them to remember the times I sit and listen to their emotional stories about their lives at home.

I want the students I teach to remember the drive for success that I push so hard for, even at their young age. I want them to know that, even though they will make mistakes in their drive for success, they must learn from those mistakes and move on, using the skills they are taught in my classroom. I want them to realize, when they are responsible, productive citizens in our community, that it started in my classroom with the rules, routines, and procedures we follow every day.

It is the stability and structure I provide in my classroom that I want my students to look back on -- and hopefully continue to build on -- when they are older. I want them to remember that I taught them to be independent thinkers and to make good choices. I want them to remember me as the teacher who laughed with them, comforted them, and taught them the basic skills they built on year after year to finally become successful adults.

Previous Teacher Diaries

Be sure to see Education World's previous teacher diary features, The First 180 Days: First-Year Teacher Diaries and A First-Year Teacher and Her Mentor.

Article by Monica Breaux
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05/06/2003