Thursday, July 12, 2012

Favorite Teacher

Most all of us have that one teacher we recall fondly and refer to as our “favorite teacher.” These teachers made a positive impact on our life and typically we found ourselves liking the subject area they taught even if it was not previously our favorite subject.

I am thankful for all my teachers, but I too had a favorite teacher who recently retired and I have been thinking about the impact she made on the lives of young people. I have been fortunate to keep in touch with this teacher due to working in the school business and the fact she took a job with Alabama Science in Motion helping area teachers conduct labs for their classes. Ms. Nancy Giles was an outstanding teacher and I took every class she taught including biology and zoology. One example that demonstrates the type of things she would do for her students occurred while we were on a field trip. Our zoology class collected cans around the school to raise money for our field trips and we were fortunate enough to take a couple of trips a year.

This particular trip was very low budget because we drove out to the Wildlife Checking Station in Black Warrior Management Area in Bankhead National Forest on the opening day of gun season. In the management area, each deer must be aged and tagged by the wildlife biologist assigned to that area. We were able to talk with the biologist and learn a lot about biology and the job of a wildlife biologist. Coincidentally, or not, one of our classmates eventually graduated from Auburn with a degree in wildlife biology.  Our class also had the opportunity to witness several deer being aged and examined to learn hands-on about mammal anatomy. Of course nearly every boy in our class was a deer hunter so this was an especially enjoyable trip. The trip in itself was great, but what happened after the trip is what really stands out. One of the hunters brought a deer by and (like we did every hunter) we asked how far from the road he field dressed the deer. Of course we were glad when he told us the “remnants” were not very far from the road. We decided a great idea would be for us to bring these back to the checking station and do a little hands on examination of the “inner workings” of the deer.

Ms. Giles agreed to allow us to bring back the deer intestines to show the rest of the class. A couple of us loaded up and went with the hunter (riding in the back of the truck in freezing weather) to bring back the prize. Of course the fact we were able to load up in the back of a truck with an armed stranger and ride in the mountains in freezing temperatures shows you how much times have changed, but that is another story. We brought back the deer intestines and did a little examination thinking this would be the end of the lesson. However, Ms. Giles saw a chance to go a little bit further. She brought the intestines back to school and spent a great deal of time that night taking a water hose and cleaning out the intestines, laying them on a lab table in the relative position they would have been found in the deer. Consequently, the next day in class we were able to conduct a much more thorough examination of the deer parts greatly enhancing our understanding of internal anatomy.

I am sure this is not how she wanted to spend her night, but I still remember her efforts to this day. Selfless acts like this made a lasting impression on her students through the years. Although the last several years of her career were spent working with teachers more than students she made a difference in the education of students by the many teachers she helped mentor and train serving with ASIM. I am sure we all have stories about our teachers who went above and beyond the call of duty to help students learn valuable lessons both in and out of the classroom. Ms. Giles has retired and hopefully will enjoy her much deserved rest, but the impact on the lives of the young people she taught will continue for years.

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