The Transformative Power of Teachers

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The Transformative Power of Teachers. Sand Hill School at CHC

It’s not hard for me to understand the impact of a Sand Hill education. All I have to do is think back to my school days to realize how much I would have benefited from a school like Sand Hill.

One of my earliest school-age memories is being pulled from class by Mr. P to play matching games and practice conversations. Little did I know that I was receiving speech and language services because teachers were concerned that I was falling behind in letter recognition and speech development. My mom later recounted that teacher reports from kindergarten through third grade discussed my tendency towards social isolation and a general underachievement.

Jeff KozlowskiIn reality, in addition to undiagnosed learning differences, I was afraid of the expectations that were thrust upon me. I was scared of the kids. Scared of the teachers. Terrified of the principal.

And with good reason. I remember a morning when the bus dropped me off early at school. As I headed toward the playground, a student grabbed the hood of my sweatshirt, spun me around until the zipper caught on my neck, and watched as I crumpled to the ground. After that, I was always on high alert when it came to unsupervised social opportunities.

On school picture day, I forgot my money and my first grade teacher reprimanded me until I cried. She insisted that I have my photo taken amidst the sobs. Captured forever in time is the image of my first-grade self with tears streaming down my cheeks and a panicked look in my eyes.

And then there was the time I decided to stand up to a bully at recess and ended up in the principal’s office. It was a time when corporal punishment was still practiced in school, and he abruptly introduced me to his paddle. My parents told the principal that he would never lay another hand on me—my mom supervised lunchroom duty just to be sure.

But in fourth grade, things changed. My teacher, Ms. B, was different. From the first time we met, I knew I could trust her. She was compassionate and nurturing; her classes were engaging, interactive and fun. We sang, danced, and took field trips to musicals and plays. She shared prizes from a treasure chest stored out of reach.

That year, I started to make friends. I began to read voraciously. My love for learning had been ignited, and my perception of school had been changed forever. That year opened my eyes to a whole world of possibilities no longer limited by my learning differences.

As I embark upon my first year as Sand Hill’s Head, the path from Ms. B’s classroom to here seems clear. I understand firsthand the power of helping kids feel comfortable in their own skin. I can empathize with the need to foster a love of learning in the classroom. And I can attest to the fact that the educational adversities our students have and will face help build resilience and grit—as long as there are supportive, caring adults to support them along the way.

As Sand Hill’s Head, it is my job to ensure that each of our students flourishes in his or her own way. Together, we can give them the confidence to take educational risks and dive fully into their personal journey towards fulfillment.

Thank you for the opportunity.

Jeff Kozlowski

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