Most people who have faith in themselves and who have a drive to be successful have something in common. One person who pushed them out of their comfort zone and let them know they could do anything they put their mind to. I’m no exception.
For professional drummer, Clint Pulver, it was a man named Mr. Jensen. This teacher told Clint he wasn’t a problem child, he was a drummer. Read more about his story HERE. For published writer Mel Anderson it is the same type of story. It was her elementary school teacher who told her that her writing wasn’t trash. This teacher inspired her to become a writer by giving Mel her first notebook. Click HERE to purchase Mel’s book. I bet you can guess where I am going with this. The teacher who brought me out of my comfort zone was Mrs. Zierow.
In my small community there are 3 towns. They each have their own elementary school from preschool-6th grade. Then for middle school the three towns come together for 7th and 8th grade. I’m so thankful that our middle school was only two years because it was the worst two years of my life. I was different. I showed up every day in a polo shirt and a belt buckle. Plus, I was a total nerd. I always had my nose in a book. I tried to fit in with the "popular kids" and that didn't work out at all.
The very first day of my 7th grade year I walked into this classroom and everything about it was different than the other ones. Instead of this depressing school environment there were colors everywhere, Spanish letters on the wall, pictures of historic events, and it was decorated so vibrantly. Then there was this teacher who was grinning from ear to ear with cherry red cheeks smiling at all of us. Initially, I thought this lady was way to over the top. She walked around the classroom telling us that we were ninjas. Like 3 minutes into her presentation she started crying just talking about how excited she was to get to know us. I came home that day and told my mom that the only female teacher we had in the middle school was a crazy one.
Within a week of getting to know her I fell in love with her kindness and enthusiasm. I have been called a “teacher’s pet” my whole life. I’ve always been a 4.0+ student. I love school and excelling at it. But Mrs. Zierow took that to a new level for me. She was somebody that I wanted to make proud. The encouragement I got from her still lives in my heart today.
Everyone loved this teacher, but everyone hated her class. We would have to research a given topic, write, and give a presentation in front of our entire class. PVLEGS was everyone’s worst enemy. Poise, Voice, Life, Eye contact, Gestures, Speed. Click HERE to read more about this grading system. When it came time to give my first presentation on the Massachusetts Bay Colony, I remember sitting at home practicing because I just wanted that teacher approval. It was a super short slide show with only 5 slides needed. I got up there in front of all of my peers and I got intimidated and talked really quietly. I got my graded score sheet handed back and I was so crushed to see that she docked me 2 points because I wasn’t speaking loud enough. I am proud to say that is the only time I was ever docked points in that grading system again. She worked with me and taught me how to be enthusiastic when talking in front of people.
The classroom became a safe zone and a place where I could be myself. It was such a safe environment. So, I decided I would take every class this amazing teacher offered. The greatest part of middle school for me was student council. Mrs. Zierow taught me how to be a leader. This empowering woman showed me that if I wanted something done there was no need to wait for someone to do it when you are a fully capable human. She would listen to my ideas and implement them into whatever activity we were doing. My most memorable experience was when she asked me to MC the talent show. I practiced and did everything in my power to make sure I didn’t let her down.
I look at who I am now and how much of an impact she has had on me. My favorite thing to do is travel to schools to speak. Click HERE to see a video of one of my talks. I love getting in front of people and sharing my experiences. I am going to speak at a Suicide Prevention Awareness conference in November where there could be 300 adults. Mrs. Zierow believed in me back then and set me up with the confidence and experience to do what I love. She has also helped me become a leader. I am currently the Nevada High School Rodeo Public Relations officer and serve on the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education Young Adult Advisory board. After high school I will be attending Colorado Mesa University to study Mass Communications.
I know that Mrs. Zierow has had a huge impact on who I am today. When I was in 8th grade she gave me a green tiny little pom pom (often used for school projects and crafts) that she calls a warm fuzzy. She called me up to her desk and had me sit in a chair right in front of her. Then she grabbed my hand and put the warm fuzzy in it. She looked me straight into the eye and said so many kind and encouraging words that made me feel so valued. I still have that warm fuzzy. I actually put it on a necklace and sometimes I wear it when I want to feel Mrs. Zierow close to my heart.
Clint Pulver always uses the phrase “Be a Mr. Jensen”. I have had the same experience and want to encourage you to “Be like Mrs. Zierow.” Students spend so much time with their teachers every day and look up to them. Be a reason that they want to show up every day and encourage them to become the best they can be. In my mind this goes beyond teachers. It doesn’t matter if you are blue collar, white collar, adult, child, scholar or student, YOU can change somebodys life with your actions. Value others and let them know that they matter. Everyone is here for a reason and sometimes we need reminded of that.
This is my last paragraph I promise. One day Mrs. Zierow bought me a pineapple. In front of the entire school she awarded me with this pineapple. "Stand Tall, Wear a Crown, and Be sweet on the Inside. Be a Pineapple". Be like Mrs. Zierow.
Quote of the week- "What a teacher writes on the whiteboard of life can never be erased."
Shirt of the Week- Hickory Horse