The Whitehall Ledger - Serving Southern Jefferson County in the Great State of Montana

By Jack H. Smith
Ledger Publisher 

Column: Thank a teacher


October 25, 2017

As is the case with many small community newspapers, my job involves a lot of time at the local schools for activities and sports. While I have been out of school quite some time, every time I visit I always admire just how hard students, staff, administrators and coaches’ work for the students. They are not paid near enough for what they do, but day in and day out they make a real difference.

I from time to time will be at the school and something will remind me of a teacher in my life that made me a better person.

To put it bluntly, I was an absolute terror from about second to sixth grade. I’m not sure what it was that made me throw a fit over just about anything, but to this day I am thankful my teachers had patience and pushed me in the right direction. They would work with me rather than always sending me to the principal’s office. The principal at my elementary school frightened me. He had a big paddle with holes in it and I’m a little surprised I wasn’t wacked with it over and over. I think just him having it on the wall was probably a deterrent to a lot of shenanigans at Westridge Elementary School.

In junior high and high school I settled down for the most part. The temper tantrums were gone, and while there was occasionally a smart remark fired towards a teacher, I did my best to not be too much of a hassle. Looking back, there were probably a lot more smart remarks than I thought at the time, but it was a lot better than throwing my papers off my desk and pouting with my head down.

The transition from junior high-to-high school was rough in my town as I’m sure it is everywhere else. Kids were not very nice at that age and everyone just wanted to be cool.

I was friends with a lot of people, but didn’t really have something I excelled at. I was from time to time okay at whacking a golf ball, but in just every other sport I looked like I was a gazelle running a way from a lion in the African Savannah. It was a site to see and I clumsily tried to run back an interception or take a fast break in for a layup.

When I was a sophomore, I took a speech class at the high school and Mr. Doug Galvin was impressed enough with what he saw in the first few months of class that he asked me to come out for the team. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I figured why not? I would get to go on longs trips in the vast state of Wyoming that were often times one or two night stays. I could spend some time on the bus trying to talk to girls, which at that age was probably also, very much like a gazelle running away from a lion, except this time I was the lion who had no idea what to say.

The first few meets were a disaster and while it was a lot of fun, I wasn’t doing so great. Mr. Galvin would encourage me to stay after school and put in a couple hours of practice, and I did. He saw potential in me and pushed me to excel. By the end of the season, I was a district champion and the first sophomore in school history to qualify for the national competition. That was an eye opening experience, but I held my own against some of the best in the nation. I was well prepared, well motivated, and shined when it mattered most. I can attribute just about all of that to Mr. Galvin.

I’m sure everyone has had a teacher or coach that has helped them succeed and for me Mr. Galvin was the guy. Over the next three years I enjoyed learning from him, occasionally really making him mad including getting kicked off the team the week before state (it didn’t last long), and hopefully making him proud.

I encourage everyone who has that special teacher in their life to take the time to reach out to them and thank them. It’s often time a thankless job and hopefully thanking them will make their day.


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