Have you ever thought about the fact that a good 12 to 20 years of someone’s life is influenced by the role of a teacher? Needless to say, a lot of our stories growing up have to do with our teachers. In the last week you probably sat at a restaurant or in your living room with some friends and someone said, “I had a teacher one time…” and they launched into a story that had everyone rolling with laughter or at the very least remembering a story that matched the one that was told.
I went to private Christian school from grade school through high school, so all of my teachers at least claimed to love the Lord. Upon occasion, that subject was debatable.
Everyone remembers their high school chemistry teacher, and if you don’t, it is because like me you slept through most of the course. I don’t think my chemistry teacher liked me. I don’t know for sure, but I think it was because I didn’t play football or run track. He was the coach of both. I remember time after time seeing him in the hallway knowing that our paths would cross and there would be the dreaded encounter.
“Lumbard!” he would say. It took everything for me to respond, “Yes?” “Why aren’t you running track?” he would say, or “I didn’t see you on the field.” I would say something lame like, “That’s because I wasn’t there,” or, “I hate running.”
It was nice to get out of that class.
Then, there is usually at least one teacher who when we remember him or her, we pause for a moment and think about how life would have been so different if he or she hadn’t come into our life. That was the teacher who truly cared about you, who was more than just interested in you passing a class; that teacher was interested in you becoming who you were born to be.
Mrs. Sheri Templeton was my high school speech teacher as well as my drama teacher. Although I have always been pretty comfortable in front of people, I don’t think the art of speech and drama came as naturally for me as it did for other students. I went to many speech tournaments my senior year. I did a drama piece that was pretty good, but it never really went anywhere as far as winning awards and recognition.
We were coming up to the last tournament of the year, the State Speech Tournament. Most everyone was going to bring their polished speech pieces that they had been working on all year. This wasn’t the tournament where you introduce new material. However, Mrs. Templeton had an idea. After class one day she told me about a piece that she thought would be perfect, but would take a lot of work. This piece was called “The Elephant Man” and it had five different characters all with different English accents. I would have to do all the characters, it would be complicated, but if we could pull it off, this just might be the one we had been looking for all year.
Mrs. Templeton worked with me during school and after school. She bought me a tape that helped train me on English accents. We put hours and hours into this piece; after all, we only had one shot. The tournament came and to make a long story short, I took state with “The Elephant Man.” It was a huge day for us both.
In all of this however, where Mrs. Templeton shined the brightest wasn’t in teaching in speech and drama. It wasn’t the times where she pushed me farther then I thought I could go. It was those moments in between the required academia and the extra curricular drama and theater. Those were the moments where she asked me how I was doing, when we talked about the latest crush I was infatuated with, but mostly when she would pray with me and encourage me to be everything that God has called me to be. She taught me that I wasn’t born to be an actor, but I was born to be a man of God. You see, God cares more about who I am than what I do.
What a huge responsibility teachers have to steer a student in one direction or another and then to stand before God someday to give an account for the influence that was at their fingertips. James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (TNIV).
I know that there are some individuals who should have never singed up for the role of a teacher, but my prayer is that the stories we remember and pass on from generation to generation would be of those teachers like Mrs. Templeton who walked in character and integrity and wisdom and who helped impact the world one life at a time.