The following was submitted by Amourette Bradley.
“Have you ever had a teacher that stood above the rest? What if thirty years later, your child shared that same teacher? And what if he or she proved not only as extraordinary as you remembered, but even more so?
Alice Erickson is that most extraordinary teacher. Many years ago, I attended her third grade class. It became my favorite year in elementary school, and she proved my favorite teacher. In Mrs. Erickson’s class, we all felt important and safe –to ask questions, to challenge ourselves, to make mistakes. And in her class, we learned more than in any other. Because of her kindness, we wanted to learn, and because of her love for us, she wanted to teach. Even today, I still remember her cursive lesson plans! More importantly, Mrs. Erickson made every day a positive experience. The next year, as I entered fourth grade, I became terribly bullied. I often wondered why in the same school, with the same children, the next grade could change so very much. Now I realize that bullying and out-of-control antics never occurred in her classes because she was the teacher. She paid attention, and she cared. She made sure that she guided behavior through example, treating each student with respect, while maintaining a calm and ordered classroom. I never forgot her teaching through example, and I strove to emulate that years later in my own classroom.
Years later, my son found himself in her first grade class. When asked about his day, he would always smile and say, “Great! I have Mrs. Erickson! Every day is great in her class.” It seemed nothing changed in all those years since she taught me. Mrs. Erickson treated her students with the same kindness and respect I remembered. She taught them interesting and important concepts, carefully explaining and encouraging. She became my son’s favorite teacher, just as she was mine.
One day my son came home signing a few words. Years before, Mrs. Erickson taught a student who used sign language. She learned as many words as she could in order to communicate with her directly. She hoped to make her feel welcome in the class. She still remembered some sign language, and she incorporated words into her teaching. This kept her skill up in case she ever taught a student who used sign language, and it offered her students the opportunity to learn a few words. They, in turn, could use these words to connect with another in future classes. Mrs. Erickson cares about making all individuals welcome in her class, and she encourages her students to do the same.
This desire to make all students welcome in her class earns her the praise of parents and staff alike. On a first grade field trip, I happened to sit next to a special education aide. We chatted, and she asked who taught my son. When I told her “Mrs. Erickson,” her response brought tears to my eyes. “Oh, I love her,” she exclaimed. She said that the extended core (special education) department brought their students to regular classes for a portion of each day. She told me that she wished all teachers could be like Mrs. Erickson. She explained that Mrs. Erickson is very “hands on” with her charges. She makes lesson plans to include and accommodate her special class “buddies.” She makes sure they participate in all activities, and most importantly, she makes them feel like valued members of her class.
Mrs. Erickson cares about her students. All learning levels receive special attention and instruction in her class. Advanced, grade-level, and struggling learners all find knowledge and understanding through her tutelage. She goes the extra mile for each child, finding books tailored to individual reading level and interests, offering varied assignments to spotlight different talents, and providing journaling opportunities to encourage each child to express him or herself. Every student is valued. This ability to reach every child assures that each child learns and feels encouraged. Her kindness guarantees each child feels safe to question and to try. As a result, her students’ academic abilities flourish, self-confidence grows, and respect for others becomes everyday behavior in her class.
For thirty-nine years, Mrs. Erickson has made a positive difference in her students’ lives. Her former students speak of her with love, and her current students view her with the same adoration. Many teachers are good teachers, but few are truly extraordinary. Mrs. Erickson represents the very best of teaching; she is that truly extraordinary teacher who comes to work each and every day with the desire to help each and every student. She consistently, year after year, day after day, makes the sun shine brighter in so many little lives.
So, thank you, Mrs. Erickson, for making every day a “great day” for your students. Thank you for teaching us with kindness and respect. Thank you for taking the time to reach every student. Thank you for making us feel important and loved. Thank you for being the kind of teacher we all aspire to be. All of these reasons and more make Alice Erickson the ideal candidate for KSL’s Teacher Feature.