Ms. Hamaty taught sophomore world history, and I learned pretty much everything I know from her. I was in a decent teaching program at my university, but like most teaching programs at any university in the world, education classes were taught by professors who hadn’t ever been in a public elementary or secondary school, or at best, hadn’t been in a non-college classroom for at least twenty years. One thing my university did well however, was to make sure you got plenty of classroom observations in. Starting two years before I graduated, I spent at least part of every semester in a classroom, multiple times a week. At first, I just did observations. Then some practice lessons, then long-term observations (in the same classroom for several hours a week), and finally, full-time student teaching for a semester in two different placements.
I was lucky enough to be matched with Ms. Hamaty on one of those early rounds, and after that point I asked to be matched with her whenever we had observations to do. I wasn’t an expert, but I recognized one when I saw one. Abilene High was a fairly large school with a pretty mixed population, although it definitely leaned towards the lower end of the income ladder. Looking back, it was a pretty average mid public school for a city of that size, but for me, it was a total immersing shock to my system. I went to a small town public school for the first three years, and a small private Christian school until I graduated, then a mid-sized Christian university after that, so I had never really gone to school with kids who were ethnically different than I, or who came from homes that weren’t stable, or whose parents didn’t always have money to put food on the table. All of a sudden, there I was, surrounded by all of these new people who weren’t like me, and it was surprisingly invigorating. From pretty much the first day I walked into that school, I knew that I had made the right decision about becoming a teacher and that this was the Thing I Wanted To Do.
Ms. Hamaty made that happen. She told me all the things they don’t tell you in teacher education classes. It was from her that I learned when to confront a student head on, and how to avert a problem with humor or teasing. She taught me how to tell stories and how to captivate a class of teenagers with a lecture and notes. She taught me that knowing a kid’s background is important, because sometimes when a kid is sleeping in class, it is because he has to work the swing shift to support his family. She taught me how to control a classroom with a look – the look of death, I like to call it – and taught me how to seize the teachable moments.
I worked with Ms. Hamaty off and on for over a year and her expertise made my first year of teaching possible. What is more, as I have been teaching, I now understand just how difficult it is to have a student teacher in your classroom and yet she was patient with me, answering all of my questions, and allowing me to teach her kids, in her classroom, my way. I wouldn’t be here without her. So thanks, Ms. Hamaty, you are still the teacher I look up to more than any other and I can never thank you enough for what you gave me.