Editorís note: Ethan Hooper wrote todayís column to give Ernest Hooper Fatherís Day off.
In May, I graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in elementary education, and I recently secured a job as a first-grade teacher with Orange County Public Schools.
Iím excited to not only put my education to use, but to add to the small but growing number of African-American male teachers and role models in the profession.
So as I mentally prepare for fall by re-examining my guided reading lessons and listening to Schoolhouse Rock on repeat ó I love Three Is a Magic Number ó I often think back to my true inspirations in this profession.
Some would merely call them teachers, but Iíve recently dubbed them the Valrico Elite, some of Valrico Elementaryís finest educators of the past.
In kindergarten, Mrs. Parke kicked things off by teaching me bravery and to not be afraid to ask questions, even if itís, "Can I use the bathroom?" Literally the first words I said on the first day. Thank you.
In first grade, Mrs. Roberts ensured I would come out a leader instead of a follower. She taught me there are more rewards in life by leading others versus following the misdeeds of some. In other words, I traded getting my name written on the board for more visits to the treasure box. Thank you.
In second grade, Mrs. Harrison displayed so much hospitality and kindness it has influenced my everyday interactions. Keep an open mind and be kind to people, unless otherwise provoked. They may invite you to tea and crumpets one day. Thank you.
In my gifted classes, Mrs. King and Mrs. Smith used innovative approaches to open the door to how interesting math and science could be. The Cockroach Bay field trip will go down as one of the greatest of all time. Thank you.
In third grade, Mrs. Faria brought a passion to class that invigorates me to this day. Reading is key, and if it werenít for her love of Holes, I canít imagine developing a voracious appetite for reading. The dinner incentive at the end of the year was a big motivator as well. Thank you.
In fourth grade, Mrs. Gladbachís guidance allowed my creativity to flow. She taught me how to take my ideas to new heights, but to always remain grounded and keep them achievable. I think thatís how I was voted most creative writer. Thank you.
In fifth grade, Mrs. Foote capped things off with fun. With a fun, loving, and engaging personality, learning becomes the same. As people, we remember our fun memories. As students, we remember our fun learning experiences. Thank you.
Others also played a role: Mrs. Kibbler, Coach Macko, Coach Sparks, Coach Saladino, Mr. Shepard, Mr. Smith and Mrs. Tyler. Mrs. Vician especially helped not only in the classroom, but in life.
Together, the Valrico Eliteís shared qualities have moved me in a way I can only fully understand 13 years after the fact. But through my many service hours and internships,
Iíve come to cherish the reward in everyday interactions with students.
From watching their growth as people, to witnessing the learning firsthand, teaching is a wonderful calling.
I canít wait to start.
Thatís all Iím saying.