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Inspirational teachers, then and now

By Dr. Ron Turbyfill

For the Salisbury Post

West Rowan lost a legendary teacher this week in Margaret Stoessel. I was a mere four years older than my first seniors when I became a teacher at West Rowan High in 1979. Mrs. Stoessel, whom I would never have called Margaret, was already a fixture in an English Department and a faculty that was spangled with star teachers.
This was a day when teachers were trusted to teach and students were expected to learn. Good students studied, did their homework, and typed their papers on the trusty IBM Selectric. Mrs. Corry and Miss Stewart saw to it that they were well prepared to do so.
Were there “bad” students in 1979? More accurately, the opposite of a good student is typically a lazy one. Or less than motivated. Or preoccupied with girlfriends or boyfriends or cars or pickup trucks. Maybe the distraction was a job that didn’t let you off work until midnight.
So are high school students so different today? I don’t think so.
I stay in touch with many of my West students. Some will celebrate their 36th reunion this year. What do they remember about Mrs. Stoessel?
“We diagrammed complicated sentences every day!”

“She was tough, but she was fair.”

“I used to slip into her room early just to talk to her.”

“I had her for English, but when I forgot my homework, she scolded me in French!”

“They don’t make teachers like Mrs. Stoessel any more!”
What do you remember about your favorite teacher? Do you remember how many “4s” were scored on the EOC?
Or do you remember how that teacher made you rise to an occasion you didn’t think you could meet? Do you remember how patient he or she was when you just “couldn’t get it?” Do you remember the look of satisfaction on their face as you walked across the track at graduation? Do you remember how many students were inspired to go off to college and also become a teacher?
I have observed so many teachers in my career. Hundreds. And here is what I know to be true.
We do make them like Mrs. Stoessel. Always have. Always will.
We don’t let them teach like Mrs. Stoessel any more.
God bless Margaret Stoessel. God bless our teachers.

Dr. Ron Turbyfill lives in Landis.

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