My late mother, Vera Hampel, graduated with her bachelor of education degree from the University of Alberta and later obtained a master's degree from the University of Calgary. She taught in Alberta for 37 years and retired in 2010. She was proud to be a teacher and dedicated her life to her students. I had the privilege of being the daughter of Mrs. Vera Hampel, a passionate teacher in all aspects of her life.
When we think of teachers, we visualize a classroom. We think of math, science, report cards, and parent-teacher interviews. How often do we stop and think of what teachers are like away from the classroom?
My mother's ability to educate was so inherent to her that she literally took every interaction as an opportunity to teach. She believed in every human being, she had high expectations, and she believed that every person could reach their greatest potential.
Whether it was teaching a stranger the value of honesty, or my daughter the beauty of independence, or motivating a loved one to further their education, my mom embraced all opportunities. Even in her retirement, my mother's passion for teaching never ended.
In the summer of 2013, we were in the Seattle airport on a stopover on our way to Palm Springs. Seemed like a great time for my eight-year-old son to learn how to play chess right? It seemed like a great time to Grandma. After explaining the rules to my son, my mom pulled out a piece of paper and managed to construct a mock chess set. Although they had to erase chess players and redraw their positions, there we were, seemingly with nothing to do but wait for the airplane, and my mom embraced this opportunity.
At that moment, my mother did not just teach my son the rules of chess. She challenged his mind, she instilled the value of learning, and she gave him a head start for next year’s school chess club.
In Palm Springs, my son asked my mom if she would go to a cooking competition with him. Of course, my mother eagerly accepted this challenge. I thought to myself, 'We don't have any food in our hotel room except ketchup, peanut butter, and a few fruits and veggies. What could they possibly make?’ It turns out, for an experienced and determined teacher, those ingredients were all that was needed.
At the competition, each group was given a can of chili peppers, which they were to use in their recipe. After a couple of hours, everyone displayed their creations. While some groups made enchiladas, tacos, or Mexican lasagna, my son showed how he and his Grandma's chili peppers, combined with a few ingredients that we had in our hotel room, became a beautiful and artistic gingerbread man.
My mom and son were invited to join the feast—however, being the classy and honest teacher my mother was, they did not accept the free food since they did not have an edible contribution to share. My mom taught my son about not only creativity, but also social grace, thinking outside the box, and that every project is possible!
It wouldn't be genuine of me to write an article about my mother without acknowledging that it was she who taught me how to write. In fact, in my entire education, from kindergarten to my master's degree, no one marked up my papers with red pen quite like my mom. My mother's perseverance was so strong that even when I expressed my frustration and asked her not to mark up my papers, the next time she did the exact same thing.
Of course, now my gratitude is endless.
My mother's encouragement of independent thought made her one of the most influential role models in my life as well as my children's. Because of my mother's influence, I know that the job of a teacher has no end. The day is over, you head for home, only to find your spouse, children, grandchildren, or a complete stranger whom you can challenge further.
Don't ever forget the impact you have as a teacher, and that your impact is not just in the classroom. Your role is substantially greater—or at least it was for my mom!