May 9, 2017

By Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist

This week, May 8–12, is Teacher Appreciation Week. We love Teacher Appreciation Week, but really, we feel it should be every week. Educators give us so much. They listen to our problems, our ideas, and our random thoughts. They serve as role models and counselors. They push us to become our best possible selves. While we can’t thank every educator enough, Teacher Appreciation Week serves as a nice time to reflect and show gratitude to the educators in our lives for everything they do.

To celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, we asked our employees and Renaissance Royals community to share their memories of educators who had profound impacts on their lives. We’ve highlighted a few of our favorites from the Renaissance Royals community below:

Rita Platt, Teacher/Librarian – St. Croix Falls School District

So many teachers have had an impact on me, but one in particular stands out. Mrs. Rita Refner was my tenth-grade driver’s ed teacher. The minute I saw her, I knew I would love her. Curly hair, a yellow scarf, pink lipstick, jean skirt, and yellow rain boots. She had a perky tone and gave students the same offer at the end of every class: “If anyone would care for a cup of tea, feel free to stop by!” To sum it up, Mrs. Refner was different, unique, quirky, and cool. One day I decided to take her up on her offer and stopped by for a cup of tea. That day, Mrs. Refner told me about how she had lost her husband to a crash with a drunk driver the year before. I asked her how she remained so positive. Her response, “What else am I going to do?” Her sense of personal style, her incredible outlook, her kind heart, and her, well, her downright out-there coolness inspired me! I knew that there were lots of ways I wanted to emulate Mrs. Ref, as I came to call her. And I did. Thanks, in part to her example, I wasn’t as troubled by my own unique qualities in high school as I might have been. Mrs. Ref showed me that being different is not only okay, it is wonderful.

Laura Reyes, Teacher – Rialto Unified School District

Many years ago, back in Mexico, sixth graders didn’t have a chance to go on to higher education. After the sixth grade, school was done because there weren’t any teachers willing to teach. My last day of sixth grade, my elementary teachers, led by Sr. Ruperto Ortiz and Sr. Gustavo Vaquera, announced that they would volunteer to teach seventh grade. The classes were from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. I was in that group of students. Thanks to them, I was able to finish seventh, eighth, and ninth grade. Years later, other teachers helped me get my teacher’s credentials.

Carly Schwartz, Teacher – Caldwell County Schools

I was never a good student. In the 60s, reading problems like dyslexia were not addressed the way they are today. By the time I graduated high school, I was done with school. Sadly, I can’t share a heartwarming story about a teacher who made a positive difference. I could share stories of a different sort. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I became interested in education. I certainly didn’t want their experience to be like mine. I enrolled in a program for people interested in working daycare. It was intensive. I always did my homework and came to class prepared, unlike many others. One day I was venting my frustration for being the only one in the group who came prepared. The instructor said something to me that changed my life. She said that I should help those who were not gifted students like myself. I still remember how stunned I felt. Her comment caused me to reassess who I was and what I might be capable of. She empowered me with confidence to enroll in college and go on to get a degree in education so that I might empower others.

Do you have an educator who made an impact on your life? Let us know in the comments! For more heartwarming stories, head over to our Teacher Appreciation Week page. And seriously, thank you from each one of us at Renaissance. We appreciate you!

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