5th grade was big time. Not only did another elementary school send their 5th graders to us (30 new classmates!) but we got to move to the basement! The teachers were also departmentalized which meant we got to switch classes and have multiple teachers.
Mr. Dawson was my science teacher in 5th and 6th grade. He was the only male teacher at our school, besides a gym teacher, so by default, he was the coolest teacher in the building. “Mr. D” was tall and funny and an all-around great guy.
It was actually during my 6th grade science class that we watched the fateful Challenger Space Shuttle launch and explosion. As a girl who saw the world through rose-colored glasses and loved her teachers, this was a traumatic event. I remember being obsessed with the newspaper and magazine articles surrounding this teacher and crew who lost their lives and the families they left behind.
About 15 years later, I got to work with Mr. Dawson. I took four of the boys from my 6th grade MH class to his science class each day. Mr. D was the same as he had always been, although he wanted me to call him by his first name, and he had a granddaughter the same age as my daughter. He loved to tell me about this new joy in his life.
Mr. D was always so good about including my guys and making sure they got to participate. He was happy to have them and my students looked up to him (figuratively, and literally…he was still really tall!). It was the only inclusion class they got to participate in and they were proud to be part of Mr. D’s class.
Lesson learned from a 5th grade teacher: Teachers can be heroes in both big and small ways.