The Teacher Who Would Give Her Students Her Right Arm
Great teachers are the real American heroes for our youth, not reality TV stars or baseball sluggers. And real examples of these heroes abound in our elementary and high schools and in our colleges. Heroes like an unassuming woman named Jane Smith.
As a breed, great teachers are an extremely generous lot. They provide their students with everything from pencils to lunch money, from Christmas toys they wouldn’t get to winter coats they didn’t have. Did you know that last year the average teacher spent $468 of their own hard-earned money to provide their students with necessities and supplies? Great teachers want their students to have what they need, even if it hurts.
Perhaps there is no better example of this unselfish generosity than Jane Smith, a middle school science teacher from North Carolina. Smith taught things like health, life science and physical science to hormone-driven pre-teens, a pretty tough order. If you don’t know that, you haven’t been in a middle school lately. But this challenge didn’t faze Mrs. Smith.
As the story goes, Mrs. Smith was watching her students’ football tryouts a few years ago and one student, Michael Clark, was wearing his pants baggy and having trouble catching the ball. Mrs. Smith chided him, as teachers do, and the 14-year-old Michael explained that he needed his pants baggy because he was on dialysis. He had a congenital kidney disease and his kidneys were failing. Moved by his plight, Mrs. Smith offered, “Well, I’ve got two. You want one.”
No one, including Michael, could believe this offer. You see, Michael is black and teacher, Jane Smith, is white. But the proposition was bona fide and, after months of testing, anxiety and waiting, both Smith and young Clark checked into a Chapel Hill hospital. A few days later, both emerged, Michael a kidney up and Jane Smith one vital organ less.
“The fact that a teacher would be so moved to offer her student such a gift is phenomenal,” said Dr. Jeffrey Fair, chief of the abdominal transplant program at UNC. We couldn’t have said it better. Jane Smith’s single act of generosity has inspired people everywhere, gaining praise and wonder from the editors at the New York Times and moving Katie Couric to tears on “The Today Show.” Her generosity was, and is, incredible. It is clearly above and beyond, but hardly unusual. Great teachers like Jane Smith are marked by their unselfish dedication.
And Mrs. Smith’s response to the whole affair is so typical of great teachers. In an interview, she said, ”In this world you need to realize that there’s a bond. There’s a connection between you and everybody else you see.” Great teachers know this and practice it everyday.
This week we want to recognize teacher-hero Jane Smith and all the heroic teachers who sacrifice and support our young people everyday.
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