A Teacher’s Greatest Lesson

Dedicated to Mr. Clevenger, my fifth grade teacher, for never letting me give up. Most importantly, believing in me. 

Teachers are some awesome and incredible people. They’re intrusted with children and asked to teach them reading, writing, and math; and social skills, comprehension, manners, respect, responsibility.

Teachers inspire, motivate, and create self confidence within their students. 

I hated going through school. I was bullied and picked on. I was the odd kid out. Didn’t act like the other kids. Music choice and clothing choice was, way different. I never acted out and didn’t cause trouble. I tried my best and offered to help out around the class. Though I was called a nerd, I actually had a hard time learning. 

Due to a genetic disorder, I developed a learning disability. It took me just slightly longer to grasp concepts and understand some topics in school. To this day I will still tell you that lunch was my favorite time at school. For obvious reasons, food and got to be outside. I will also still tell you that math was the bane of my existence all the way through college. I still hate it with a burning passion of a trillion suns. 

Of all the topics in school it was the one that got my frustrated the easiest and made me give up almost instantly. 

However, I had one teacher who took the time to not only teach me math and allow me time to understand it but wouldn’t let me give on. 

“I believe in you, you can do this” – Mr. Clevenger. 

I had a few teachers who really made an impact on my life. Mr. Clevenger was one of them. He was a great teacher. He did more than just teach us the normal school stuff. For you see, like most teachers, Mr. Clevenger had a second job. He was a Warrant Officer in the National Guard and flew helicopters. 

From time to time, we would break from our normal lessons and he’d take time to teach us about the helicopters he flew and even showed us how he used maps to find where he was and where he needed to go. 

His biggest impact on me was how supportive he was.

Imagine a young man, a bright yellow number 2 pencil in hand, sitting in his desk blankly staring at a math sheet. His head help up by his hands, look of desperate frustration on his face. Beside him, a teacher squatting. A gentle hand on the shoulder and speaking softly. Words of encouragement and a refusal to let the young man not to give up on just the math, but himself. 

That was me, the young man; and Mr. Clevenger, the teacher.  Almost weekly it was the same thing. I’d fall behind on some work because I wasn’t understanding it. I look around the class and my fellow students are working on the current assignment. Mr. Clevenger is at the board writing away. I’m stuck on the fractions from last week. 

After instructions I’d just sit there staring blankly. Mr. Clevenger walks over and squats next to my desk. Frustrated I tell him I can’t do it. Reassuring, he says “I know you can do this. I’m not gonna let you give up.”

Years later those words still stick with me. Stuck in the back of my mind, unconsciously hearing them each time I’m ready to quit and walk away. 

Today I still strive to continue and push forward no matter how hard the work gets. I refuse to quit and I push myself forward. 

Mr. Clevenger’s impact didn’t affect myself. It affected every student who walked through his classroom. 

Sadly the world lost a great teacher a few years after he was my teacher. Mr. Clevenger was killed in a training accident when the helicopter he was flying crashed. 

Mr. Clevenger, 

I don’t know if I ever told you, but thank you. Thank you for not quitting on me. Thank you for not allowing me to quit on myself. 

You’d be proud to see me today. I graduated from college. 

You’d be proud of all your students. We’ve done so well. Your dedication to us kept us going. 

You continue to inspire me. I push to accomplish all my goals, not just in school. I never quit. 

Thank you. 

If you have a teacher who inspired you, never gave up on you, or never let you give up on yourself. Take some time to thank them. They don’t get the recognition they deserve. 

God Bless and Positive Vibes.

Niall Covington

Born with a genetic disorder, Niall knows what it is like to be knocked down. He has been there several times and he has been able to get back up because of faith and a small number of friends. Seeing others getting knocked down, Niall offers a hand whether he has just fallen or is on the way back up himself. Volunteering as a summer camp counselor for children, teens, and young adults with the same disorder, Niall hopes to inspire them to overcome life's road blocks. For Niall, writing for Project Wednesday is an opportunity to reach more people, and to help more.

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