RSS Feed

Ode to Teachers

I wanted to blog and post pictures of some great cloud formations around Edmonton last night, but I received an email and there was an idea I could not resist. We each had teachers, and I use the word in its broadest definition, who made an impact on our lives. Ruth is someone I taught with for 12 years.  I use the word taught guardedly and refuse to use the work word to describe our relationship. We learned together. Learning is different and is relational. In her email, she described a visit with a parent of a former student and shared this phrase, ‘child whisperer.’

Each of us, had or have people in our lives in many forms who fit the phrase. They remind us of what the root word of educate is–educare. Even the Latin word speaks of care, which I think is vital to the relational nature of learning.

I can think of many who filled the role. Sister Phillips was my first grade teacher. She was a member of the Catholic order the Sisters of Service and it was special in her class. Later, in high school, I had Ms. Lyford, a short, stocky Australian woman who loved Shakespeare. She once said, “Ivon, if you only tried you would be an A student.” She did it loving and in a caring way, I think. I was good with a B and explained that to her.

Outside school it was my grandmother and mother. I still learn from them although the former is long past away and my mother lives 8 hours away. I learned from my father-in-law and mother-in-law and, needless to say, I learn from the daughter I married. I learn from our boys and my students in many ways. This list is incomplete, but the point is : Great teachers are great not because they tell you do something, but because they lead you to want to do it and ignite your imagination and spirit for learning in a magical way .”

Blend compassion and passion

Bring out the best in each child

Walk with them

Open your heart

Greet them

With your story

Receive their stories gently

Reveal vulnerability

Be a guide they need

In each moment

Learn, share, create

Listen and hear

And speak in a voice

Only a child whisperer can.

Take a moment, tell us about a teacher or teachers who made a difference for you, who whispered at the right moment and spoke the right words lighting a fire in your spirit.


About ivonprefontaine

In keeping with bell hooks and Noam Chomsky, I consider myself a public and dissident intellectual. Part of my work is to move beyond (transcend) institutional dogmas that bind me to defend freedom, raising my voice to be heard on behalf of those who seek equity and justice in all their forms. I completed my PhD in Philosophy of Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA. My dissertation and research was how teachers experience becoming teachers and their role as leaders. I focus on leading, communicating, and innovating in organizations. This includes mindfuful servant-leadership, World Cafe events, Appreciative Inquiry, and expressing one's self through creativity. I offer retreats, workshops, and presentations that can be tailored to your organzations specific needs. I published peer reviewed articles about schools as learning organizations, currere as an ethical pursuit, and hope as an essential element of adult eductaion. I published three poems and am currently preparing my poetry to publish as an anthology of poetry. I present on mindful leadership, servant leadership, schools as learning organizations, how teachers experience becoming teachers, assessement, and critical thinking. I facilitate mindfulness, hospitality retreats. and World Cafe Events using Appreciative Inquiry. I am writing and researching about various forms of leadership, how teachers inform and form their identity as a particular teacher, schools as learning organizations, hope and its anticipatory relationship with the future, and hope as an essential element in learning.

6 responses »

  1. Lovely post Ivon.

    I had a wonderful English teacher in Year 10 who simply took the time to tell me that he liked my story writing. He graded me well but he also always made a point of telling me personally that he enjoyed reading my stories. Enjoyed! I remember I was thrilled because I was generally a good student and so it was just expected that I would do well, not many teachers took the time to tell me they “enjoyed” my work. I believe that was the year that I focused more in English class and read a lot more than ever…….and then boys came along (ha ha).

  2. I think of several great teachers- my third grade teacher whose name I can no longer recall who helped me love reading, Mrs. Bradshaw- English 11th grade- who helped me understand that I could be a writer, David Yalden-Thomson, my college Philosophy tutor who believed in me like nobody’s business.

    For many years I have said that if you want to change the world, go be a good school teacher. Teachers are saints.

    • Thomas, thank you for the response. I think our lists will always be incomplete. Your example of David resonates. That is what made and makes him memorable, he believed in you.

      Take care,


  3. Hi Ivon,
    Reading this post took me back to my teaching days in Saskatoon. I had two wonderful principals who were great teachers. They believed in me, were supportive and didn’t hesitate to let me know when I had done something right. Their positive comments, extra notes of encouragement and thanks made me want to be an even better teacher. Child whisperer would have been a term I could have used back then as these two people mentored me. I am also fortunate to have had and keep on having the opportunity to learn from you in so many ways. Thanks, you are truly a child whisperer.

    • Thank you for the kind words. I think the opportunity to be good is expanded when we are with people we trust. I was fortunate to learn alongside you and others who have inspired me to be better.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: