A tribute to some very special people

A year or so ago, my daughter and son-in-law decided to enroll our then 4-year-old grandson, Carter, in the Miami County Educational Service Center (MCESC) preschool program. They made their decision in part because he was delayed in acquiring language and fine motor skills, and they felt he would benefit socially from being around other kids his age, because he was extremely shy.

As the former Superintendent of the MCESC, I was well acquainted with the preschool staff. I knew them as loving, caring, and competent educators who would care for his needs, just as they had done for every other child under their tutelage during my tenure as Superintendent. I had no doubt he would be in good hands.

And, boy, was I right! His first school experience exceeded our wildest expectations thanks in large part to the preschool staff. Every day, when we asked him, “How was school today?” his answer was always the same. “Great!” he would proudly proclaim, with a beaming smile, eager to provide us with the details of his day.

Carter’s love of school didn’t happen by accident. He loved it, because the staff understood that great teachers ensure that their students are not only challenged academically, but also feel loved and safe. They recognized that great teaching is not measured strictly by test scores.

Thank God for their wisdom.

Although research tells us that a child’s parents are his or her first and most important teachers, that does not mean teachers aren’t important, because they most certainly are. In fact, the best are often life-changers. Perhaps you’ve had some of those yourself. Thank goodness Carter met some life-changers this year.

Our grandson was heartbroken when he learned that school was closed. He was going to miss his new friends, and he would miss his teacher, Mrs. Spagnola, who he adores, and her aides, Miss Nancy and Miss Marcia, because they were all so kind to him.

Not surprisingly, though, Mrs. Spagnola’s teaching did not stop with Governor DeWine’s order to end the school year, just as it has not ended for other teachers around Ohio. She has provided assignments for her students, she has held class meetings remotely, and the preschool staff even created a YouTube video letting the students know they were missed and loved. She has stayed connected as much as possible to the students she so obviously adores.

Additionally, Carter’s mother, who is a teacher herself, has been at his side, doing school activities with him, helping him learn the things he would have been covering in school and so much more. In other words, his education has continued, albeit not ideally, as a result of the school and the home working in tandem to meet his needs.

Just as they’re supposed to do.

As a result of this tag team approach to teaching, that little boy who was enrolled in preschool because he was late in developing language is now reading first grade level books, can count to 20 in Spanish, and is not the backward child he was just a few short months ago. He has flourished thanks to the dedication of the preschool staff who worked so hard with him, to parents who value and are involved in his education, and to his own can-do attitude and inquisitiveness.

Since he is only five, it is hard to know how much Carter will remember from this year’s school experience, but what is certain is that his parents and grandparents won’t ever forget the role a group of dedicated educators played in helping a little boy blossom beyond our wildest expectations.

We are thankful for them every single day.

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Tom Dunn

Contributing Columnist

Tom Dunn is the former superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center.