A Teacher’s Summer. A Story About An Extraordinary Teacher.


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The following is a true story about a creative adult who became a creative teacher. How happy and lucky we were to have many teachers like this for our own children! Thank you to the teachers who are spending their summer preparing for a new class, a new school year, a new chance to bring a sense of wonder to learning!


I clipped the article below from the newspaper on September 6, 1986. At that time, I had not yet started the loop of teaching elementary school from year to year. I was considering a teaching career, but I would need to go back to school to get the necessary certifications. I had received my BA degree in Journalism and Sociology and absolutely refused to get a teaching certificate.


“Who me? Teach? Are you kidding? I’m going to work at newspapers so I can interview interesting people and write stories that will influence the city and beyond. I’m going to be someone who brings about change. I want to do something important!”

Oh my goodness…I was a headstrong twenty year old when I made that statement to my mother and anyone who would listen! I did work at newspapers in the editorial department and also in retail advertising. I loved newspapers… the competition and the long hours. I loved working at newspapers until we had our first child and then our second child. I had the opportunity to teach in the Day School at our church. Eventually, I did go back to get my teaching certificates. Eventually, I taught at urban elementary schools with a high poverty rate and less than safe neighborhoods.

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As it turned out…I did do something important…I became a teacher.


 Elementary school geography class

When I happened to read the following 1986 article, I had somewhat of an epiphany. I could see myself as the teacher in the article. I knew that this teacher was truly facilitating change in her community. I was fascinated by this teacher’s excitement and enthusiasm for the new school year… 


A 1986 newspaper article that changed my thinking about teaching…


“It was one of those days that would have been achingly perfect in July. But it was the end of August. So it was a feebler sort of perfect.

The tall woman with gray hair and and a deep tan set up her chair facing the water. Here in Chicago, that’s what we do at the end of summer. Our lake is on the wrong side. It’s to the east. So all summer long we are torn. We have to turn our backs on that gorgeous horizon and face the parking lot to get tan. But by summer’s end, we are bored with our tans. So like this woman, we turn our faces away from the sun, and treat our eyes and our souls to the splendid lake view.

But this woman wasn’t watching the water much today. She was much too busy. A huge tote bag sat next to her and she reached in to take her scissors and her stencils and her packs of construction paper. Then she started cutting. With great relish. The rectangles of rust and orange and yellows were briskly whittled into oak leaves and maple leaves. Autumnal shade of A’s and B’s and C’s started to fall from her scissor blades. And all the while, she chatted animatedly with her companion about her projects and aspirations for the group of third graders that walked into her room this week.

Could it be? Are there actually 1986 teachers who, after having been out there in the educational jungle for a couple of decades , are still so excited about the first day of school that they can barely wait to start molding those little minds?

Yes. This one’s name is Jean Hayden. She is 63 years old. And if the first day of school had come one minute later this year, she was going to burst. Jean has been teaching for 19 years. Before that, she was a lyric soprano, singing on the college circuit and with the Chicago Symphony. But at 42, this mother of two decided to switch gears, go back to school, and get her teaching credentials.

~Every September when those kids walk in, I am determined to give them the joy of continued learning– not just academics, but to savor the whole process of expanding their horizon.~

Hayden uses music in her class all the time. her students’ multiplication drills are done to different rhythms on the guitar she plays. Their cursive writing is sometimes done to strains of soft rock records. She is the only teacher at Avoca West in Wilmette who invites the children from special education classes into her room. She does it twice a week for ~songfests~. Because she feels it’s important for both group of kids to know how to deal with each other. Principal Harriet Ostlund says, ~Jean Hayden is one of those teachers who just infuses kids with motivation.~

Every June when the erasers have been pounded together for the last time, Jean tells herself, ~Boy, am I ready to forget about this room. Then by about the third week, the wheels start turning. I’m rolling it all around–what should I change, add, try. And by September on the night before school starts, I can never sleep. I’m too excited. I’m like a kid. Really. In fact I always make a new outfit and lay it out. This year it’s a white skirt and a bright red sweater.~

I thought you’d want to know about Jean Hayden. That there still are teachers out there like her. That there still are teachers who not only care, but are passionate and terrific and committed. Who sit on a beach in the tarnished gold of an August afternoon, cutting out little acorns and saying to themselves…

~Send ’em on in. I can’t wait.~”


The article was published in the Dallas Times Herald on September 6, 1986…written by Judy Markey for the News America Syndicate.


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Some teachers always remember the significance of preparing for the future…studying about the past…looking at the view from a window…cutting out letters and acorns from a vantage point near the lakeside.


Some teachers have kept the joyous imagination of childhood within their personality. These teachers hopefully share their vastly unique view of the world through their teaching. Their classroom is the result of a myriad of moments spent in preparation.  


Someone out there will become a teacher this year…and a child’s world will indeed become a much better place! I hope that you will remember that teacher at the lake in Chicago and her total joy in teaching third grade children.



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12 thoughts on “A Teacher’s Summer. A Story About An Extraordinary Teacher.

  1. I tried to comment on this earlier and my computer was pitching a fit or something! I absolutely love this post! I have multiple nieces, nephews, cousins and an uncle who have been or still are teachers. They all love what they do and are exactly like this teacher in your post. My son is dating a 1st grade teacher and she is constantly looking for things “her kids” would enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I thought that the newspaper article was wonderful when I first read it in 1986! I saved it in my desk and I still read it ever so often! I called my classes “my children”, “my kids” and was constantly finding something at the Dollar Store for them. And the funny thing was…Mike would find all kinds of little things for them!!

      Liked by 2 people

      • She is putting that boy to work! Good for her! Sometimes, they need a little training! Just kidding…sort of! When I taught third and fourth grades…I was shocked at the number of papers to grade! It was constant! One time, I even had a good friend who is an elementary principal to help me! She might have been far more lenient than me! But, she wasn’t there when they spent they spent the entire “writing time” the day before …getting up to drink water or getting up to get something out of their locker or whispering to the child in the next desk!


  2. Very nice post. There are still many special teachers in this world and I know some of them. It takes a special commitment to be a teacher. I was an educational secretary for years and I witnessed some great, dedicated teachers in action. Thanks for this story – it was so inspiring.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! What a busy, busy job…school secretary! Yes…there are some wonderful teachers and some who are very, very discouraged over testing. I really love the article that was in the newspaper. I have kept it in my desk all these years and read it from time to time!


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