© 2022 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Central Standard

Kansas Citians Remember The 'Dedicated' Teachers, 'Dictators' Of Their Childhoods

Kevin Dooley

KCUR Announcer Linda Sher's life changed when her high school French teacher challenged her.

Central Standard host Gina Kaufmann credits her love of literature to fond memories of listening to her elementary school teacher read out loud in class.

And I owe my career in journalism to my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Bentley, who turned my weakness in writing into a strength by paying me a little extra attention.

The lasting impact of a teacher became particularly evident this week when we took to the airwaves and social media and asked Kansas Citians to walk down memory lane

(The question, "Who's your most memorable teacher?" was part of a new reporting project, Teaching It Forward.)

The memories you shared with us were stories of creativity, tough love and friendship.

Such was the case for a woman who called our Tell KCUR phone line, who told us about a teacher who "was like a second mother" to her. She remembered when her father died, the teacher bought her a prom dress so she could still go to the dance.

In an email to KCUR, Michael Cummings tells us about the complicated mechanical drawings a teacher assigned in high school.

"His insistence on exactness taught me to pay attention to detail," Cummings wrote.

Creative assignments at the Sumner Academy in Kansas City, Kansas, also taught a life lesson to Conja Summerlin, who reached out to us on Facebook.

"(Rob Hassig) uses everything from lesson-specific music to ties and cuff links to help his students connect viscerally with history," Summerlin said. "Mr. Hassig didn't just teach facts, he expected us to expand our minds, apply what we learn and become better thinkers."

We heard several stories from people thanking their teachers for demanding excellence, which helped them later in life.

"My fav teacher taught me to teach myself, which was hard in the moment but paid off in college!" @KateBartlettt tells us on Twitter.


Credit KCUR

But this week's Tell KCUR question wasn't just a love fest.

Asking about your "most memorable" teacher triggered some difficult memories, as well.

A man, who declined to divulge his name, emailed us about visiting the grave of his kindergarten teacher recently — "to make sure she was dead."

"She was the most evil person I've ever met and the only person I ever hated," he wrote. "She was the worst of dictators. A drill sergeant gone berserk. Constant yelling, constant ridicule, constant demands. A person of no joy, no positive attributes."

When I asked him if the teacher left him with any life lesson, this was his response:

"As for me, I guess every time life kicked me in the teeth, I could look at the eyes of the instigator, give him/her a little smile and think, 'You can't scare or intimidate me, I've dealt with a lot worse than you could possibly be."

Tell KCUR is part of an initiative to engage the community and shine a light on your experiences and opinions. We’ll ask a new question every other week and then share your feedback on the air and online. Check out our arsenal of questions and your answers