I will never forget Mr. Creel, my 7th grade teacher at an inner school in Portland Oregon. Having been home schooled in the 4th grade I had breezed through grade school on what I had learned up to meeting Mr. Creel. I looked around the room at my new classmates and thought to myself, "I'm going to get straight A's in this class easy." It was all he could do to keep the "boys" (all larger and heavier than him) in their seats and not acting up. This was my second public school, but my first experience of being with kids my age who weren't totally focused on learning.
Mr. Creel gave us an assignment to do a term paper. I decided to do it on the planets and went to the encyclopedia and plagarized mercilessly. I put every planet on a separate page, even though it may be only a four inch paragraph. I remember feeling that I hadn't done my best. When I handed my paper in ON TIME I was only one of three who did (class of about 30). I wasn't proud of what I'd done but I had met the assignment in my mind. When I got it back with the grade D- my mouth dropped and I asked, "Why? I turned it in on time and it has enough pages." His answer has lived with me the rest of my life. He said,"Connie, don't think that I am going to grade you against the rest of the students in this class. I'm going to grade you against what you are capable of doing. Don't short yourself by comparing yourself with those around you. Do the assignment again." I was speechless at the time but took it home, had a long conversation with my father and redid the assignment and got an A-.
I am so grateful for that moment when Mr. Creel stood up to me and told me what was right just as he had to do with those out of control boys day after day. I was a quicker learner and took what he said to heart. Going forward it was him and me talking about how well I did on the assignments and those around me were a blur.
When I was in my thirties I tried to locate Mr. Creel to thank him and let him know what a difference he had made in my life. I found out that he had left teaching about three years after I was in his class and died of cancer at an early age, probably in his forties. It was a great disappointment that I couldn't locate him.
Now almost thirty years later I am really getting closer to being the person I always knew I could be. Maybe I wasn't such a quick study after all but I know I would never be where I am today without Mr. Creel.
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