66: Divine Intervention

66: Divine Intervention

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teacher Tales

Divine Intervention

One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers,
but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings.
The curriculum is so much necessary material, but warmth
is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.

~Carl Jung

So many times I’ve been asked the notorious educator question, “Why do you teach?” Sometimes the answer is just purely simple and easy to answer, but when I scrutinize the multitude of reasons why I teach, the answer is much more complicated than meets the eye. One thing that usually comes immediately to my mind is that I need to teach! In all honesty, teaching is in many ways one of the largest defining facets of who I am as a person. I’m complete, genuinely happy and irrevocably addicted to watching my students grow as citizens, meet challenges and achieve success on a daily basis.

My journey of becoming a teacher began when I was in fourth grade….

In the fall of 1980, I was moving for the eighth time and I was only nine years old. Far worse than that, my father had recently passed away from lung cancer in late spring and my maternal grandparents had passed away as well that summer. To make things a bit more challenging, my mother was divorcing her second husband during all of this, and we were moving in with her new boyfriend who ended up being my second stepfather. My emotional state was quite fragile; I was extremely sad and had some anxiety about going to yet another new school.

By what I like to now call divine intervention, I was placed in Mrs. Dutton’s classroom. This incredible woman recognized that at this crucial point in my life, my soul needed nurturing as much as my intellect, if not more, and she embraced this challenge. Daily, she provided me with encouraging words and praise, which ultimately made me want to believe in myself. Her enthusiasm for teaching, her compassion towards her students, and her ability to find what it was that made us individually shine was what made me want to teach. More than anything, I wanted to be just like my favorite teacher. By high school, my flame for teaching still burned brightly, as I continued on the path towards becoming an elementary teacher.

Throughout my teaching journey, Mrs. Dutton remained a guiding presence in my life. She attended my high school and college graduation parties as well as my wedding. Our relationship continued to grow even deeper when I was hired as a fifth grade teacher in the same school where she was working, the school where she first came into my life in fourth grade, Congin Elementary School. (The same school I still teach at, by the way.) As a beginning teacher she quickly put me under her wing and continued to nurture me as my mentor. Mrs. Roberta Dutton-Morrill has in fact, never left my side.

Our connection runs so deep, that when I was named a nominee for Maine’s Teacher of the Year, my hometown newspaper, the American Journal, ran a story about me. Mrs. Dutton did not know this was happening at the time, as she was living at her summer home and had to go pick up her mail from the post office on the particular day the story was released. Like a true-blue Westbrook citizen, she still had the AJ forwarded to her home in Belgrade Lakes. That very day, as Mrs. Dutton went in to get her mail, a postal clerk asked her what she did as a profession before retiring. Mrs. Dutton told the clerk about her career as a teacher, and the clerk said something to the effect that she, Mrs. Dutton, must have touched many of her students’ lives. My former teacher then went on to tell the clerk about this one little girl she had back in the early 1980s, a girl who had just lost her dad and was going through a tough situation, and ended her story with how that little girl grew up to become a teacher who stayed in touch with her on a regular basis. During that whole conversation with the clerk, Mrs. Dutton held in her hands that day’s mail.

Upon returning home she started to browse her mail and there on the front page was the article about that little girl, the former student she so loved, me. When she started to read the article she was flabbergasted to see a large portion was dedicated to her; it went on to say how her influence had made a world of difference to me and how I value the whole child due to her guidance. Later that night my phone rang. You can imagine how thrilled I was to hear Mrs. Dutton’s voice, the voice of an angel. As she told me the story about what had happened at the post office earlier that day, my body was encased in goose bumps from head to toe. That is when she also told me about how she always felt that I had come into her life not by chance, but rather by divine intervention; this statement brought me to tears.

Just this past fall, I was presented the extraordinary privilege of being named Maine’s 2009 Teacher of the Year. Can you guess who was in the audience at the surprise assembly? When it came time to give my speech, all I could think to say was how so many times during my fifteen years as a teacher, I would mention to my students that I only wished I could be half of the teacher that Mrs. Dutton was to me. Every year I would talk about her, and my students all knew who my favorite teacher was without a doubt, by name. At that surprise assembly, I was given an opportunity to share with my students, colleagues, parents, family and community what this amazing woman meant to me and how she had made a profound difference in my life.

More importantly, as Maine’s Teacher of the Year, I got to honor the many unsung heroes, our teachers! Mrs. Dutton never got an award such as this one; however, she did get something better than that—she will forever live in her students’ hearts as someone who had compassion, respect, and an abundance of love for her students. In her presence we all shined, and if you ask me, that is what teaching is all about.

Why do I teach? I teach, because it is my passion and it feeds my soul.

~Gloria L. Noyes
2009 Maine State Teacher of the Year
Elementary teacher, grade 5

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