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Who's your favorite teacher?

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I've been thinking about teachers a lot lately, which is natural.

I cover education in Harford County, I recently attended the Teacher of the Year banquet and had the pleasure (seriously!) of sitting in on the winner's, Christina O'Neill, class.

Beyond that, my life is also full of teachers.

My husband, Chris, is a long-term substitute in Baltimore County and three of my best friends are teachers. Put them all in a room together and it's all they can talk about (PS: hearing about lesson planning when you're a non-teacher is boring).

At the Teacher of the Year banquet, Board of Education President Leonard Wheeler spoke about favorite teachers and how a person can immediately name the one — or several — educators in his or her lifetime who made a huge impact.

During his speech I had four faces, not including college, come to mind.

Chris and I have talked before about how a teacher can change someone's mind or life. When a student tells him how much they loved his class or just show appreciation, he's pretty much glowing for the rest of the day.

I was never that bold of a person growing up to tell my teacher, "Hey, you're awesome." My third grade teacher who got me into writing never got to know that I'm a writer/reporter/whatever you want to call it because of her.

Not many people have that kind of influence to lead someone's life in one direction or another, yet teachers do that every day.

So, I'm using this column as my chance to tell four teachers I had while growing up in Bel Air that hey, you guys are pretty awesome.

Mrs. Price, third grade teacher at Bel Air Elementary.

The aforementioned mentor who got me hooked on the written word, but she did much more.

Mrs. Price really got 8-year-old me thinking about books. What makes a good story, what makes something worth reading and then have us apply that to our own creations.

She encouraged us to write — a lot. Even though I was probably the only kid to get excited at yet another assignment, her passion for reading and writing really rubbed off.

Mrs. Price also made us read "Charlotte's Web," which had me crying at the end. I never read it again or watched the movie because it's too sad.

Bonus: I still remember the original 13 colonies of the United States. I can barely remember what I did last week, but I remember that.

When I called BAES to see if Mrs. Price was still there (a long shot since she was already a veteran teacher when I had her), I was told she retired "quite a few years" ago. I'm sure in her time at the school, she influenced many others.

Mr. Rinehart, eighth grade social studies at Southampton Middle School.

The best thing about Mr. Rinehart is that he loves music and movies and constantly talked about just that. Many conversations were had. When a teacher shows he has the same interests as you, you usually pay attention.

He's like Robin Williams' character in "Dead Poets Society," not only because he would quote the movie all the time, but also because he challenged us in non-conventional ways and made learning fun.

Again, I still remember a lot of what he taught us about the American Civil War, which came in handy in college when I had a terrible history teacher and didn't pay attention.

In all honesty, I wish more teachers were like Mr. Rinehart.

Mrs. May, 11th grade creative writing at C. Milton Wright.

Oh my goodness, was she amazing.

It's no surprise that I would love another English teacher, but what Mrs. May taught me was a huge factor in the way I write.

Up until my junior year, I didn't know the most important thing all writers should know — everything is made up of three parts: the introduction, the supporting facts and then the conclusion.

How could no one have told me this before?

For every creative writing class she taught, she had the students write a letter to ourselves in five years, which she would then mail out in five years.

When Mrs. May retired my senior year, I was worried that we wouldn't receive ours. Sure enough, half a decade later I got a blast from the past. Turns out 17-year-old and 22-year-old me still had problems with boys.

Ms. Gross, 12th grade English at C. Milton.

Amy Gross — the only teacher I actually remembered the first name of after all these years — was younger than most of the staff at the school.

She was either right out of college or slightly older, but the fact that she was close in age to us students made me feel like she understood us more.

Ms. Gross treated us like the almost-adults we were and I always appreciated that.

She introduced me to my favorite writer, Oscar Wilde, and my still-favorite book, "The Picture of Dorian Gray."

What I remember most is that she let me borrow her Barenaked Ladies CD. How cool is that?

These four amazing people all have in common respect for their students, unconditional encouragement and a learning style that has stuck with me for quite some time.

They all shaped me, either in big or small ways, to be the person I am, as cheesy as it sounds.

Whenever I have kids I truly hope they have a Mrs. Price, Mr. Rinehart, Mrs. May or Ms. Gross of their own during their learning career.

I'm certainly a better person for have knowing them.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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