Teachers' influence can last for decades

Ken Shepherd credits some stellar teachers for encouraging him to read throughout his life.

The end of the school year is a perfect time to stop and take stock of the things our children have learned and the growth they have experienced throughout the past year.

It is also an opportune time to thank the teachers in our local schools who have worked so hard to help make sure that all of our kids have access to quality education. The impact that teachers can have, even on very young students, lasts throughout their lives.

One Payson resident, Ken Shepherd, exemplifies the impact that dedicated teachers can have on their students — even for decades after class gets out for the summer.

“I recently had cause to reminisce my high school English classes that helped me enjoy good literature and reading throughout my life,” Shepherd explains. There were many classes that impacted him. While each of his teachers had different styles and strengths, they all impacted his future attitudes toward learning and literacy.

“In ninth grade, we read more than we did grammar. Miss Olson made reading interesting and could tell a story that spellbound us. The library was next to our classroom, so we had access to any book to read and enjoy. It was in 9th grade English class that I first read Longfellow’s ‘Evangeline’ and it is still a great favorite--as are many other of his writings,” he said.

Shepherd continues his reminiscences by highlighting some other exceptional teachers at his high school. “In 10th grade, our English teacher was not a grammar or literary man. Mr. Powell was our typing and business instructor, and he was excellent there. He only taught our English class because of a shortage of teachers after the war! We started to read ‘A Tale of Two Cities,’ but both the students and the instructor gave up on it. Years later, I finished reading the Tale and enjoyed it very much,” Shepherd said.

“In 11th grade, Miss Hirschi was our teacher. She was just fresh out of BYU. She was bubbly, full of life, and had lots of humor and jollity. We read Cheaper by the Dozen, and she herself laughed so hard at its antics, we all enjoyed it. It was so funny. And in 12th grade, my English teacher was named Miss Widdison. She was quiet and reserved, but had a deep interest in and knowledge of good poetry and great literature. We read ‘Macbeth’ in her class, and I came to love it and Shakespeare’s other works. Over the years, my wife and I have gone to Cedar City and enjoyed the Shakespearean offerings there at the Utah Shakespeare Festival.”

Thanks to these — and many other — teachers, Shepherd was able to nurture a lifelong love of learning. Their efforts to teach and guide him as a young student have had a significant impact for decades. As he said, “As a result of these school experiences, I enjoy reading — mainly the classics — good poetry, and church books and periodicals, all thanks to those good teachers. After 70 years, those teachers are still influencing me for good. They are still my friends and I have many fond memories of their teaching and friendship.”

As our students head out for another summer of fun and learning activities, let’s all remember to thank those dedicated and compassionate teachers who have made such a difference in our lives.

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