I know a lot of teachers who do great work. I also know of a lot of teachers who don’t even like kids. Teachers, like everyone else, run the gamut from excellent to horrible. Today, I’d like to announce something new: a celebration of not only good teaching, but exceptional humanity in the classroom.
Every year from now on, I will award the Mary Lou Brewer Prize for the teacher I know who best educates their students, teaching them important things about life and empowering them to make a difference in the world, while being kind and caring to their students.
For those of you who don’t know, Mary Lou Brewer was my history teacher in 11th and 12th grade. She also has the distinction of being my favorite teacher ever. She believed in me when I didn’t believe in me. This earned her a spot in my ordination service and a place in my heart forever. She has met my children and my wife, because I wouldn’t be where I am in life without her help. This is not a memorial award. To my knowledge, ML is still alive and is a snowbird, living in Massachusetts and Florida some portion of the year now. She is retired, though, which brings us Cat.
Cat has been through long, difficult period, recently, and I suspect that she will be tetiringretiring at some point. More’s the pity. I have known Cat since I was 14 years old and in that time, she has remained radical and kind. Aware of the important things in life, faithful and aware of spirituality, interested in the welfare of others, and a lover of the best parts of the human spirit.
Though she began late in her life, she brought joy and challenge, pride and love of literature to students once she got there.
She expects great things from her students because she sees great things in her students. They believe her and, because they do, great things happen for them and to them.
In her personal life, she fights racism, sexism, homophobia, religious intolerance and other things that divide us. She sees the worst and supports the best in the world. Some of this, of course, goes into her classroom.
Now, about the prize: it is a classic Stan Lee “no prize”. There is no trophy and no cash award — the traditional teacher’s gift. What she wins, however, is the acknowledgement of her fine work, the admiration of her students, and a hug. Plus, as a special bonus, she gets to help pick the 2nd annual Mary Lou Brewer prize recipient.