Friday, August 12, 2011

in praise of teachers, our most valuable resource

This week we've been enjoying three of our nephews, 10 year-old twins and an 8-year old. Their father--my brother--is a 4th grade teacher and is leading his boys and their Taiwanese mother through the mountain west on a camping tour of history. On their way to Idaho, they took a side-trip to an old stagecoach station in Oregon to see the grave of Sacajawea's son, Pomp Charbonneau -- Pomp, of course, was the baby in her cradleboard during Lewis & Clark's journey to the Pacific.

With my brother at dinner, stories abound. He's so excited to describe finding part of the early railroad near Donner Pass that he delays eating the burger and salad before him. While this story evolves into one about Chinese laborers in the 1860s, I watch his boys help with the dishes. This means holding their plates below the table where Poppy and Daisy have been waiting for just such an opportunity. Dogs understand little boys and visa-versa.       

my favorite teacher & his boys
I'm mesmerized by my brother, a tender father and a gifted teacher. As his older sister I can testify that he is a BORN teacher. All his life he has looked up in wonder at the clouds and birds, wondering about flight. He taught my sons how to make paper airplanes ... oh, that's another thing that happens at dinner, things fly, I mean little origami-looking UFOs that soar over the table to the couch. If his boys or mine ask what it would feel like to be eaten by a shark, he'll pause with his hamburger mid-air then begin a graphic but delightful response.

Summer vacation for my brother--as it is for so many teachers--involves more learning and discovery, more excitement for what he'll be able to share with his students in the fall. Yesterday he took his boys fishing in the Tetons, explaining that Colter Bay was named after Private John Colter of the Lewis & Clark expedition, the first white man to 'discover' Yellowstone. My brother showed my nephews the geysers then drove up to where the battle of Little Big Horn took place. Early this morning he messaged me from his i-pad with a four-word assessment: "Custer had it coming."

I can't wait until they drive back through Boise on their way home, to hear what else they've learned. I'm proud of my brother and all the devoted educators out there.

Teachers: our country's most valuable resource.