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Have you thanked a teacher lately?

They said she was mean.
Children at that age can be highly critical of people – especially teachers.
If an educator is out there who seeks more from a student than the pupil merely going through the motions, I reckon that deems the lady a meany.
That is the belief hammered into your psyche when you are a fifth grader.
Now seemingly eons ago I was once such a fifth grader. It has been a few years – my eldest son currently is a sixth grader – but I still remember Mrs. Watters.
Note the spelling of her name with repeated t’s. There is an extra one compared to the Waters families in Screven County.
I was raised in North Georgia. Rome to be exact.
Every school system has a “Mrs. Watters.” You know the kind – at first meeting a bit gruff to deal with, not much zeal in the personality category, and undoubtedly the sternest person on the planet.
However, even as a 10-year-old I quickly began to see my “Mrs. Watters” at Model Elementary School really wasn’t mean at all. She just wanted me and my fellow classmates to do our best.
Mrs. Watters knew we were not only capable of doing the classwork, but also capable of doing it well.
During my existence on earth, I have learned from my parents and teachers that if you want something in life you have to work at it. If you sit on your duff, then you get left in the dust.
Those who succeed are successful because they listened to their teachers and heeded the educators’ wisdom.
As the publisher-editor of your community newspaper and a father of four enrolled in the Screven County school system, I can without any qualms tell you that our county is blessed with knowledgeable teachers who care about your children. I have seen the love they have for the students first hand.
The school system mantra is “Screven County Schools, a safe place where everyone matters, everyone learns, and everyone succeeds.”
That isn’t merely a spacefiller stuck up on marquee. It is a promise from the teachers, counselors, administrators, school bus transportation, cafeteria personnel, and custodial service crews.
Two weeks ago Bud Stone, an elder statesman in our community, penned a letter to the editor in your Sylvania Telephone urging residents to step forward and thank the teachers for all that they do – all this despite the ever-changing state educational climate and the lost wages from furloughs.
Mr. Stone could have stopped with his letter, but he definitely did not.
He personally went to business after business asking them to honor our teachers – be that through the newspaper, at their workplace, or in conversations with others. Mr. Stone talked with community leaders, business leaders, governmental leaders and would have even conversed with liters of Coca-Colas if they were willing to listen.
Stone wanted everyone to display their support for Screven County teachers between Feb. 14 and 18. He talked to church pastors asking them to have their congregations honor teachers on Feb. 13, the day before Valentines Day.
It was a heartfelt showing for those who give all of their heart to their occupations. It isn’t just a job for teachers. They love the children.
We need more people like Bud Stone.
We also need more people like Rodney Williams. We need more people like Ramona Stewart. We need more people like Dale Reddick. We need more people like Jerry Hunter.
If you don’t recognize these individuals’ names, ask around. I assure you these are the type of people who have made and will continue to make significant impacts in your community.
Maybe you just haven’t seen them because they are moving faster than the superspeedy “Flash” on to yet another project to benefit all of us.
There is one common denominator for Bud, Rodney, Ramona, Dale and Jerry. Their lives were richly impacted by educators.
Those teachers helped mold them into becoming even better people. Now they pour their soul into this community.
As you read this, you have probably been reflecting back on certain teachers who, in their own ways, inspired you to learn, inspired you to explore, and inspired you to evolve.
We have teachers like that today who lead classrooms at the elementary school, middle school, high school, Community Christian School, Ogeechee Technical College, and the collection of preschool facilities in our county.
Within the pages of this week’s Sylvania Telephone is a tribute to our teachers as local businesses and private individuals took part in a unified “thank you” for our educators. Others of you may have expressed your gratitude in other ways.
Do as your heart guides you.
If you haven’t credited a teacher this week, month, year or for that matter decade, educators are very accepting people. They will cherish a smile, enjoy a robust “good job” comment, and revel in a gift of appreciation at any time.
Folks, try it. It will make you feel good too.
Several years ago Mrs. Watters did her part to make me a better citizen. As for that alleged gruff exterior of hers, I saw her grin a lot when I and my fellow classmates did our best.
Grins can be found in abundance at the schools in your community.
Thank you teachers – past, present and future.

Enoch Autry is publisher-editor of Sylvania Telephone.