Slow Turning

Like the song says, you can learn to live with love or without it

Thank A Teacher

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Jeff Charbonneau was named 2013 National Teacher of the Year.

I normally wouldn’t think much of it, but he teaches at Zillah High School in Zillah, Washington, which is just down the road from my hometown of Prosser.  Admittedly, I have spent very little time in Zillah.  I’m from a small town so visiting another small town down the road isn’t all that appealing.  But there are two things that come to mind when I here Zillah:

El Ranchito – We stopped by this place when I was a kid, maybe 11 or so, and I loved it.  My tacos came in deep fried tortillas that were greasy deliciousness wrapped around delightfully tasting taco meet.

Zillah High School Football – In 1992, my high school football team was on a quest to avenge their lone loss from the year before in the State Championship game.  While our friends in Zillah weren’t on the same path of revenge, they were blazing their own trail to the State Finals.  They were in the A league and we were AA, so our paths would not cross.  Instead, we got to travel together to Seattle to play in the Kingbowl.

I described the experience here, but what was not included in that walk down memory lane was the Zillah game.  They played in the game right before ours, and the first half was amazing.  We were yelling and cheering for them from the sidelines as they dominated Eatonville.  Then came half time and, for as exciting as the first half was, the second half proved to be equally heartbreaking.  Eatonville was on fire in the second half and Zillah couldn’t hold them.  Had I not needed to run out for our game, I probably would have crumpled to the ground as a sobbing mess.  It was that heartbreaking.  But you know what?  Every Zillah fan I passed before our game started stopped to let us know that they were not leaving.  They were going to stay and cheer for us and hoped that we were able to beat the big Seattle school.  And they did.  They stayed and they cheered, which is way more than I can say for the O’Dea “fans” who, as the clock wound down and they were shut out of the game, started filing out of the Kingdome.

Without any disrespect to Zillah and Mr. Charbonneau, here are some of my favorite teachers I’ve had over the years.

Mrs. Fink – She was the second of three 1st grade teachers I had.  No, I did not flunk, nor was I a problem child.  I just had three teachers that year and she was my favorite.  She was probably the first person that I ever thought was cool and smart and beautiful.  And I loved her class. Probably because my best friend was in it as well as a cute boy I had a crush on, but regardless of the reason, I enjoyed getting up every day and going to school.

Mr. Gilbertson – He was my 5th grade teacher and I couldn’t imagine a better one.  He was a teacher who understood me, from my small hand-writing to my quietness, and was ok with it all.  As I lived through my worst year ever, he was patient and worked with my mom as I missed school to visit my dad.  Sometimes I wish I could go back to his class and spend my days there.  They were some of the worst times of my life, but they were also some of the best.  Plus, my best friend was also in the class with me.

Mr. Boyle – He was my middle school band teacher.  I’m not sure that he ever liked me but he put up with my poor playing and didn’t kick me out of class.  What stayed with me more than anything else, was want he wrote in my yearbook.  I don’t remember verbatim what he wrote but it was something about my smile making a difference.  It made a difference to me that he noticed.

Mr. Donaldson – He was my English teacher in 9th and 11th grade, and I’m pretty sure that he would stand out no matter where he was at.  He was unlike any teacher I have ever had.  I remember he made us write in journals, and I hated it.  I thought it was ridiculous and just dumb.  Well guess what I wrote about in the spring?  I let it all pour out, and his comment, “He did”, to my pondering of not knowing if my dad ever knew how much I loved him was freeing. It lifted a burden in a very real way as it let me let go of some of the guilt I had been harboring since my dad had died.

So there you have it.  A few of my teachers who made a difference to me.  You know what’s most surprising?  They weren’t great teachers because they taught me something that came from a book.  They were great teachers because they helped to shape me as a person, and I cannot thank them enough.


Written by rachel

April 23, 2013 at 8:38 pm

One Response

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  1. Excellent post – and believe it or not, as a graduate of ZHS in 1996, I was a freshman in the fall of 1992 at ZHS – and while not a football player myself, I was in the stands for the game. And, yes, I did stay for the Prosser game with the rest of my family and more than half the town of Zillah.

    On behalf of ZHS students and fans, thank you for your kind comments.

    And as a teacher, thank you so much for taking the time to recognize Mrs. Fink, Mr. Gilbertson, Mr. Boyle, and Mr. Donaldson. There is no gift, award, or pirze that can match the joy from hearing from a former student that you have made a difference.

    If I can be so bold as to ask, if you have not done so already, please send them a copy of your post. I cannot tell you just how much it will mean to them.


    Jeff Charbonneau
    2013 National Teacher of the Year
    Zillah High School, Zillah, WA

    Go Leopards – and Mustangs!

    Jeff Charbonneau

    August 4, 2013 at 10:59 pm

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