The Impact of a Teacher

All through my years as a student in public education there was one teacher who had the most powerful impact on my life.  It was my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Hogan.  On August 5th, HoganMrs. Hogan passed away at the age of 88.  The legacy she leaves behind is one of incredible inspiration, kindness, and grace.  As a teacher, she was definitely a master of the subjects she taught.  She obviously took the time to craft her lessons, making sure to include fun activities that grabbed our attention and kept it!  However, the impact Mrs. Hogan had on my life stretches far beyond academics.  Quite simply, Mrs. Hogan made me feel important and loved.  She constantly encouraged and inspired me to be better and to let my good qualities shine.  That wasn’t something that came naturally for me, but she made me feel like it was possible.

I make it no secret that I did not always enjoy school.  But I absolutely loved 3rd grade!  I can still remember the tadpoles we watched turn into frogs and the pet bird that she brought to the classroom.  Her read alouds were epic and I was always tuned in.  I recall one time where Mrs. Hogan was reading to the class and she really got into character.  She was so animated with her reading that she had to pause to make sure that the principal wasn’t coming to investigate the ruckus.  Like everything she did, we ate it up!  At the end of the year, Mrs. Hogan had each of us make a book of our best 3rd grade writing.  The book gave us a chance to showcase our work, but I think the real purpose was to provide our parents with a keepsake.  Wouldn’t you know it, that book became a keepsake for me instead (sorry Mom and Dad).  Now that I am a 3rd grade teacher, I keep that special book in my classroom.  My students love to read my writing from the time when I was their age.  I love to read the written feedback that Mrs. Hogan left for me 30 years ago.  That book is just one reminder of the special year I shared with her and the impact that she had on my life.

Two years ago I was back in my hometown in New Jersey, visiting many of the places that shaped my childhood.  I tend to be sentimental, so taking it all in was a powerful experience.  But the most powerful of them all was visiting Mrs. Hogan in the Hogan and Meghannursing home.  It had been almost 30 years since I was one of her 3rd graders, but she remembered exactly who I was.  We shared some great memories and unforgettable stories.  As I pushed her around in her wheel chair, I told her about the incredible impact she had on my life.  I also told her that I was now a 3rd grade teacher, trying to give my students the same blessings that she had given to me.  My sister was with me during that visit because she too was one of Mrs. Hogan’s 3rd graders back in the 80’s.  And believe it or not, my sister is also a 3rd grade teacher.  So there we sat, three 3rd grade teachers.  We reveled in the memories of one classroom with a beautiful history, while celebrating two classrooms attempting to carry on that legacy.  On one hand, I felt proud to talk about my role as a teacher.  On the other hand, I felt like a happy little kid whose teacher loved him.

Driving away from that nursing home, my heart was so full.  My whole family was in the car, and my mom decided to share one more story about Mrs. Hogan.  It turns out, that the year after I had Mrs. Hogan; my 4th grade teachers wanted to put me on medicine.  As any good parent does, my mom sought the advice from the teacher where I had found success.  Mrs. Hogan’s response was simple and firm.  She told my mom, “Don’t you dare let anyone put my Colin on meds!”  That settled it.  Period.  I can’t believe how much this wonderful lady actually cared about me.  She didn’t just know my reading ability or math skills.  She knew me.  And she loved me.  I’ll never forget how she called her class “Hogan’s Heroes.”  And that is certainly the way she made her students feel.  We all felt like heroes.  Ironically, it was Mrs. Hogan who was the hero all along.  Thank you Mrs. Hogan.  May you rest in peace knowing that you made many lives better, especially mine.  May we all be so lucky to have a teacher like Mrs. Hogan.

12 thoughts on “The Impact of a Teacher

  1. What a beautiful and inspiring story! You have the same qualities of this precious lady and both of my children had the honor of having you as a teacher. They will still mention something they learned in your class. As awesome as you are in the classroom, I hope your future allows you to come out of the classroom to touch the lives of so many more that don’t get the chance to have you as their teacher… mentor….cheerleader! Keep spreading your love and compassion to all. Shine On Mr. Rork, Shine On! 🙂

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with my mother. I especially love the fact that you visited her at Holland Christian Home. Teachers often wonder how our students’ “stories” turn out and I am sure mom was thrilled with your story when you visited. Bill Hogan

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  3. Dear Colin:
    it has been my pleasure to read your tribute to our mother. We as her family always knew how much mom loved her students. Our mother always worked hard to understand and draw out the potential she saw in each of you. She fought for your right to learn at your own unique pace and searched for ways to ignite your love of learning and nurture your budding confidence in yourself. Now, how lovely for us to learn that her life’s work has had such a remarkable impact and that she retains a special place in your heart. I can assure that she was very proud of you and all her beloved 3rd graders who remained in heart forevermore. BTW: You might be happy to learn that Mrs. Hogan’s eldest granddaughter is also a 3rd grade teacher. With gratitude, a child of Mrs. Hogan

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  4. What a wonderful tribute to my grandmother. It is so very wonderful to see the difference she made in the lives of others.

    Thank you from another 3rd grade teacher (and granddaughter of Mrs. Hogan)

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  5. She was a wonderful Aunt too! We so enjoyed making our way from Chicago to Ridgewood every Thanksgiving! Memories that will last us a lifetime. May our dear Aunt Glo rest in peace knowing she made the world a better place for us all.

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  6. Colin, thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute to my mother in law Gloria! I have read it multiple times and I cry every time! It brings her to life. You really captured her ability to make everyone feel special. Everyone. It inspires me to live more consciously and I hope some of Gloria rubbed off on me!

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  7. Dear Colin,
    Your tribute is amazing and so true. She was my favorite colleague for all the same reasons she was your favorite teacher!!! It was she who began the third grade WEL program that lasted @ 30 years!
    Where are you and Meghan teaching?
    I’m so thrilled that you are both teaching! I’d love to hear from you!

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  8. That was an outstanding tribute Colin. I think as educators we all take the attributes of those teachers who made the greatest impact on our lives and education and weave them into our own “teacher” persona. Her legacy lives on through you and yours to your students. One day I’m sure someone will write similar words about you. Well done Colin.
    Tony

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