I Am an Iowa Teacher


Susan Vernon, Teacher-Writer

I am an Iowa teacher.
I have taught hundreds, maybe thousands of Iowa teenagers over more than two decades.
I have given each of them the best I knew how to give.
I have read thousands of pages to find the perfect books for reluctant readers
Kids who wanted books about
or hunting,
or dance,
or outer space,
or ballerinas,
or monsters,
or adventures,
or kids who looked like them,
or kids who had lives like theirs.
I have written thousands of lesson plans and rewritten them when students suggested new ideas, when students didn’t quite understand the skills I was teaching, when students weren’t quite as engaged as I hoped, when students asked questions I didn’t anticipate, when students were impacted by world events, or personal events, or collective tragedies.
I have listened to thousands of stories about fishing trips and dance competitions, new baby brothers and new step mothers, first jobs, first dates, first pets, first piercings, first tattoos, church retreats, grandparent funerals, family vacations,
cancer diagnoses,
parent deaths,
traumatic divorces,
and the suicides of best friends.
I have worked innumerable hours directing plays, coaching speech, building sets, leading clubs, building floats, decorating for school dances, chaperoning proms, because those are some of the best teacher moments of all.
I have calmed children after school shootings in other parts of the country and during threats in our own communities.
I have sat up nights praying unceasingly for kids who couldn’t learn, kids who weren’t safe at home, kids whose eating disorders were ravaging their bodies, kids whose drug habits were destroying them, kids who couldn’t find the right friends, kids with severe depression or anxiety,
kids who didn’t know what foster home they would land in next.
I have attended hundreds of sporting events
And dance competitions
And school plays
And choir concerts
And band performances
And speech contests
And quiz bowls
And weddings
And baby showers
And even one ordination
I have visited hospital rooms
And sat in waiting rooms
And attended more funerals than I ever imagined I would.
So many funerals.
I have educated young people who grew up to be doctors, auto mechanics, hairdressers, lawyers, pastors, sales clerks, realtors, coaches, business owners, contractors, construction workers, delivery drivers, social workers, therapists, actors, artists, nurses, farmers, teachers, police officers, American soldiers, moms and dads, and just about everything else that makes our great state run.
I have loved them all.
I have loved them all no matter their race, their religion, their sexuality, their gender identity, their social class, their immigration status, their political ideology.
I have loved them all.
Because that is the job. That is my calling. That is what I am here to do.
I am an Iowa teacher.