A Member of the Band
I love to hear about the educators who inspired the educators who inspire me. Sean Gaillard is an award winning principal, podcast creator and author of The Pepper Effect. He credits Mrs. McMonagle, his fifth grade teacher, with setting him on his path as an educator.
Mrs. McMonagle was a giant standing slightly below 5 feet, her voice laced in a Scottish-British brogue. We had to pronounce words like secretary and military in the Queen's English. Secretary was "secre-TREE" and military was "mili-TREE."
Mrs. Mac changed my life. She taught me the value of language, composition and literature. To this day, I can recite arcane grammatical rules and diagram a complex sentence all thanks to Mrs. McMonagle. Furthermore, I am grateful for Mrs. McMonagle giving me my 5th Grade Winter Play Debut as Jacob Marley in "A Christmas Carol."
One memory that resonates in my mind is the day that Mrs. McMonagle had to take a census in class. I am not sure the reason why she had to do it. In my mind, it was something for the main office. She asked us all a series of questions based on student demographics. This was 1980 and I know that these questions could never be asked publicly today in a classroom.
Mrs. McMonagle was steering through a series of questions and reached one that remains imprinted in my memory, "Is there any one here a minority?"
There was silence. Everyone knew the answer and all eyes landed on me. A few peers giggled in my direction at the only Black kid in class. I shyly raised my hand.
Mrs. McMonagle looked gently in my direction and then said, "Well, that makes two of us Mr. Gaillard. I was born Scotland and lived in England. I am a minority, too, so I will check my name next to yours."
I may have sat up taller in my seat or maybe I felt a little more acceptance from a teacher who had already introduced me to The Beatles and the artistry of language. Regardless, Mrs. McMonagle's impact resonated with me and led me towards a path as teacher and principal.
Sean’s story illustrates the way a gifted teacher makes a student feel both unique and normal. I know that Sean, like Mrs. McMonagle, has a knack for celebrating individuality while making each of his teachers and students feel like a member of the band. When did a teacher help you feel accepted just as you are? Please share in the comments below.
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