By May 4, 2016 Uncategorized 3 Comments

Amidst the constant rancor and legislative turmoil associated with crafting state budgets and enacting education policy, from time to time it is appropriate to remember just why teachers do what they do.

While this week may be the officially sanctioned time to recognize teachers across our nation, we know that hard-working educators deserve our sincere thanks each and every day.

We don’t talk about it enough but teachers truly are the heart and soul of many of our communities. They touch the present and thereby influence the future. Teachers literally change lives.

I want to share one of many sterling examples from my school district: Mr. Tom Huff, a kindergarten teacher at Northwoods Fine Arts Academy in Sand Springs.

Yes, you read that correctly. Tom is one of those rare members of the male species who can successfully herd a gaggle of 21 five-year-olds every day, and love it! I could not do it.

A unique aspect of Tom’s teaching is his use of nature and the outdoors to help kids build enthusiasm for learning. He loves his Kinders and they love him.

With his permission, I would like to share a recent letter he wrote about a typical day in his classroom. It is both funny and heartwarming. Tom has some lucky students.

“Ever been on a treasure hunt?  Ever been on a treasure hunt with a bunch of kids?  Well, you should.

Today my class of twenty-one Kindergarteners and I went on a real life pirate treasure hunt.  Map included.  The map alone was treasure enough for Saber and Waylon!  Skipping small groups was a treasure for Elizabeth.

So off we go, out the front doors and down the sidewalk.  Wesley finds his treasure right in front of the school, on the cement.  It’s a smashed little toad, dried out and flat as a cracker.  He had to leave it, but he touched it real good before we had to go on.

We entered the trail to pirate treasure adventure at the covered bridge.  All the kids hang out the sides of the bridge looking and pointing and there are a couple of spitters.  Spitting in the creek is the grand prize for James.  He has great enthusiasm for it and a lot of slobber.

Well off the bridge and out on the trail the girls find little bouquets of dandelions and thistles and those tiny blue flowers.  They intend to keep them forever, but not many will get back to the classroom.  And as we walk there is lots of discussion and arguing about what kind of treasure we will find and if there really are pirates around and if Alex really does have a pirate ship in his backyard because he says he does.  I try to agree with most of what Alex says so we can just keep moving, but some of his friends just like to see him get worked up, so they don’t believe him.  That stops our treasure hunt until I can rearrange our line order.  Of course, upsetting others is some kid’s treasure so now they are content.

On we march, up and down ravines and through dried up creek beds we go.  Who knows all the lucky bugs, mosses, sticks and rocks that get collected along the way.  All valuable stuff.

Suddenly, as we come up over the creek bank, Noah sees a pirate flag.  No really a pirate flag!  He’s first, first one to see it, he wins.  I don’t know why that’s such a big deal, saying you’re first, but it is so now he has a treasure.

We all excitedly approach the pile of gravel at the end of the playground that now has a pirate flag planted on it.  As we get closer we see a little shovel stuck in the pile and a big, white X laying right where to dig.  Gage announced, “It has to be here!”  Gage has seen this movie before, he knows how it goes.

There is a fight over the shovel until I can snatch it away from the want to be pirates and I remember Audrey is the student of the day so I hand it to her.  We all back away and Audrey digs hard and fast, down to the asphalt, with great zeal.  She’s not the least bit discouraged at finding nothing.  Digging was a treasure.

Jonathan declares, “Someone moved the X!”  So Audrey hands him the shovel and away he goes.  Three shovels in he hits pay dirt.  A metallic ‘clunk’ gets everyone’s attention and we all lean in.  Jonathan, red-faced and grinning, pulls out a metal hexagon-shaped box with a skull and crossbones on it.  He hands it to me and I brush the dirt off and open it.

Gold!  “REAL GOLD!” yells Alex!  None of us had ever seen so much gold.  Big, golden chunks of the stuff.  Enough for everyone.  We pass it around and everyone gets a nugget and I hear comments like, “I’m going to MacDonald’s!” and “I’m buying a race car!” and “I’m getting my own room!” and “Is this real?”

I can’t lie to them.  I tell them it’s not.  No one hears me, though.  No one really cares, even the boy who asked if it was real.  It was real enough.

Now here’s what you need to know about treasure hunting, what I know of it anyway.  The treasure is not what you have in your hands at the end.  The treasure is along the way.  Life is a treasure.  Find it!  Every day, find it and enjoy it, then put it down or take it with you if it isn’t too cumbersome.  Treasure hunting with a bunch of kids is kind of asking for a headache, but so is getting out of bed every morning.

So just get up anyway and look for the stuff all around you that is your treasure.  Try not to ever have a plain old day.

I kind of enjoyed the spitting in the creek myself today.”

Thank you Tom and all teachers for loving our kids and helping them find and appreciate their treasure. Reading your letter was a treasure to me.

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