New York, Nu York: Teachers Remembered, Years Later

On occasion, I get an idea for a blog post when attending shul. This past Shabbat, Ki Tavo, I entered my Brooklyn synagogue, the East Midwood Jewish Center. I greeted a few men who had attended the early minyan, and one stopped me with "I was thinking of you! Let me tell you why."
Jacob B. told me that he thought of me, because he had read an article about someone I never heard of, but when he'd read that article, he thought of Rabbi F. And when he thought of the late Rabbi F., who lead a congregation in the Bronx, Jacob B. thought of me. I worked a few times with Rabbi F's son, also a rabbi, on designing and running bus tours of former synagogues in the Bronx.
As we spoke about both rabbis and the Bronx, Jacob explained that the father rabbi was one of the people he has most respected and revered throughout his life. He even called the late Rabbi F a "paradigm of a good Jew," and gave several reasons to support his opinion. I never met the late Rabbi F but have heard that he was an exceptionally good person-- and I have said the same of his son.
I have to assume that most of us can think of a few people we consider to be the epitome of goodness, moral strength and wise leadership. If a person cannot find someone in her or his life who fits this category, they need to reassess the people they know and have known, or think harder. But this also makes clear that for many of us, there have been at least a few teachers, or people in similar positions, who had substantial impacts upon our lives. And when we have these people in mind, we can reflect upon the reasons why we esteem them so highly, and what we learned from them.
I was a public school teacher for 18 years, and I also worked as a day camp counselor and after-school assistant teacher. I have often wondered if I made a good impact, and enough of a good impact, upon at least some of my students. There have been a few teachers in my life who were quite special in good ways, and a few whom I disliked so greatly that I decided I would NOT want to be like them. The first of my two 3rd grade teachers would be one such teacher, a woman who was so verbally mean-spirited that she really hurt my feelings deeply on more than one occasion. When she left on maternity leave, I was so relieved to have a milder, more pleasant teacher in her place. And when I became a teacher, I determined that I would never behave in the manner in which the horrid teacher acted.
As we approach a new year, let us think about how a few teachers and rabbis and other special people have enriched our lives. Hopefully the memories of these people help us to achieve things and improve our lives, in order for us to improve the lives of other people in turn. "Pay it forward," as they say.