Celebrating Women Educators Who Help Us Reach Our Potential
Many of the most influential women in our lives are educators. As we continue to celebrate National Women's History Month, we meet one female educator whose encouragement helped Lead TERC Developer, Jamie Larsen, reach his full potential. In this story, Jamie remembers his teacher, Mrs. Mangrum, who became a mentor that set him on a path towards STEM.
"I was scared of her toughness and ability to see through me. But I know now that her toughness was the part of her that made me work hard enough to be better at math than I thought I could be," Jamie Larsen, Lead Developer, Co-founder EdGE at TERC
I think we all have a Mrs. Mangrum in our past. Without them our lives would be significantly different. You know the one. The teacher that said the right word to encourage, or, even, the wrong word that discouraged. The word of encouragement kept you moving on. The word of discouragement may have motivated you to prove them wrong by getting it right.
Such teachers are important to our growth and what we become and should be honored, hopefully before it is too late. Over time the education these teachers provided matures from lessons with value measured in grades into ones in which the real value is defined by our ability to reason and think—to do the right thing. We used to call it “becoming educated”.
How does one honor this? For Mrs. Mangrum I was fortunate enough to do so before she passed.
I did not see Mrs. Mangrum for fifteen years after my high school graduation, although I thought of her often. When I became a teacher her image was one of those that inspired me. I held her fast in my mind to represent the type of teacher I wanted to be. When I finally found the time and courage (I was a bit scared of her, that was part of her beauty) to see her, she was in a nursing home, dying from cancer, and in a wheel chair. After my first visit I tried to see her whenever I visited my parents who used to live in her town. It was hard. As the cancer progressed I saw her physical presence begin to blur. In my mind though her lines grew sharper even as she faded. From what I can tell from others I’ve talked to over the years, this is the case for them. She will always be “that teacher”, one of the ones they all remember.
I hope she enjoyed the time I could spend with her in the hospital. I know I still cherish the little time I spent with her as student and later as an “adult.”
Toward her end I took my (then) three-year old son with me to visit. We gave her a present of flowers to brighten her room. I remember the tears in her eyes when we gave her a dozen red roses with three yellow ones. I told her that the red were for all of my teachers and the yellow for those that made the biggest difference—the three that, without their guidance, my life would have taken a different path. It was such a small tribute. Yet it felt tangible and real, something that represented the good things that had grown from the seeds she had planted in my soul.
I remember the smile on her face and on my son’s face as he sat on her lap. I wheeled them about the rest home and into the sun. We talked about what she meant to me. My son listened. I remember hoping that he understood the respect I had for my teacher and would pass on the same to the ones that mattered in his life.
I remember the pain in her eyes as the cancer spread. The strength with which she suppressed her pain to ask about my life and my teaching. Offering love and advice—always the teacher.
Always the teacher…
When I die, my life would be complete if someone could say that about me.
I’d like to think that Mrs. Mangrum was, in the end, my friend. Although, like many, when I had Mrs. Mangrum in class, I was scared of her toughness and ability to see through me. But I know now that her toughness was the part of her that made me work hard enough to be better at math than I thought I could be.
Think about who you are and what makes you a better person. Scratch that surface and see if you don’t come up with a few teachers that made the difference. Go out and find your Mrs. Mangrum, and thank her, before it’s too late. If she has passed, keep the memory alive, tell someone about her. Write her story and try to honor her with your actions.