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Mrs. Degenstein

Last week I got the news that a former teacher, Mrs. Degenstein had passed away. She taught me grade 5. She was wonderful. Mrs. Degenstein was the perfect middle years teacher. She was caring, firm, and liked to laugh. Looking back, I truly have the sense that she enjoyed spending her days with us.

I have a number of very vivid memories from Mrs. Degenstein's classroom. I remember her standing at the front of the class with a bucket of water. I was completely flabbergasted when she swung the bucket around in circles and the water stayed in it. There have been a few moments in my adult life where I have thought back to that moment when thinking about something related to inertia. Mrs. Degenstein was a fit, athletic woman. I remember her teaching us what speed walking was and how annoyed many of the boys were that they couldn't go as fast as she could. She told us there was speed walking in the olympics and I honestly thought she should go out for it! Mrs. Degenstein also taught me what varicose veins were. She may have even had surgery when I was in grade 5 because of them, but that part is a little fuzzy :-)

More recently, I got to spend a small bit of time with Gwenne (aka Mrs. Degenstein) when I was invited to golf in a tournament with her. She was just as I remembered her. I feel lucky for the time I spent in her classroom and the hours we spent on the golf course.

I have been doing a lot of reflection the last couple of weeks. I am set to go back to work January 28. I have mixed emotions about it. Rather than being sad about what I am losing, I am trying to focus on what I am gaining. . .

Mrs. Degenstein left a mark on me.

I have this note on my iPhone titled "Teaching" that I add notes to now and again. At the very top it says, "Above all else, show your students you care." Mrs. Degenstein certainly did this. There is a fine line I have to walk as a teacher. I need my students to know I care, but I can't just do everything they want. It is similar to being a parent. I could make noodles every night and supper might be a bit less stressful, but that's not what's best for my kids. I could assign less questions to my students and let them do whatever they want during the work portion of the period, but that's not what's best for my students.

I hope that I can find that balance between meeting my student's learning needs and showing them that I care more about them than math. It won't be easy, but I am confident I can do it.

One thing I know for sure is that as I head back to the classroom, I will be thinking of Mrs. Degenstein and the impact she made on me.

Tell a teacher how you feel about them today.  Happy Monday.


  1. Such a kind post. I know your students will see you this way too.

  2. So So True.

    My three reminders I have taped to my desk, wherever that desk might be?

    - Move them forward
    - Make them think
    - Find individual strengths (Cherish them)

    Good luck. Will be thinking of you a tonne!! <3


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