Katie Easterling was born and raised in Rockingham. A 2008 graduate of Richmond Senior High School, in May of this year Katie graduated Cum Laude from North Carolina State University with a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology. She will begin the PharmD program at Wingate University School of Pharmacy in August. — Editor.
As a five year old, I was convinced I could grow up to be anything: a ballerina, a medical doctor, an actress, or a singer. I also thought about being a teacher. Although these occupations are very different, they each have one thing in common: each requires a particular talent. To be a ballerina, one must be able to stand and dance on their toes hours upon hours. A medical doctor puts forth countless hours of putting symptoms together to diagnose a patient. A singer must possess the gift that I sadly lack, and that is to be able to carry a tune. The talent of a teacher, though, is one that very few possess. A teacher wakes up with the break of dawn and may not settle until the stars have reached their peak. A teacher devotes their life to motivate and push students to reach their goals; and when you’re just not getting something, a teacher will stay long past 5:00, refusing to leave until what hasn’t clicked finally does.
Carolyn Quick was my kindergarten teacher at LJ Bell. My mother recently told me that she tried to stick around on my first day of school, but I begged her to leave. I soon became Mrs. Quick’s shadow, aspiring to be the woman that she was. I was five years old wearing panty hose and draping sweaters over my shoulders. Although I’m sure she does not remember, she popped me on the hand for what I would soon gain a reputation in the world of teachers for: talking.
I met the first man outside of my father and uncles to have had an influence on me that same year in kindergarten. It was such an influence that I was soon mesmerized by everything he did. It became clear to me as a five year old, that I had developed my first crush on a teacher. I cried when he made the first mention of his wife, and I was also devastated when news traveled around LJ Bell that my third grade year would be spent with a new PE teacher. I’m grateful that Cory Satterfield decided to embark on his Principal career, because I feel truly blessed to have started and ended my thirteen years with him.
Throughout my years in school, mama made it very clear to me that I needed teachers who would push me; someone who would make me work for my grades. She started this when I entered the 2nd grade. Ironically, the second grade was around the time students began learning about upper level teachers and their reputations. When I found out I had Pam Denson, I cried. For those of you who do not know Mrs. Denson, rough does not begin to explain her. For the first time as a student, I was forced to work; it was no longer cutting out pictures from magazines or reading simple books. I was learning cursive and multiplication. Mrs. Denson once gave me free time. As I was writing, she stood over my shoulder and read my work. I asked her if this was free time, and she said yes. So, I looked at her and asked her if what I was writing during my free time was any of her business. What’s funny, though, is she soon became a confidant. Long after I graduated from her classroom, we kept in touch. She was always curious about my success in junior high and high school. The same remained once I became a college student. I was no longer Mrs. Denson’s student, but a friend. She offered me praise when I was doing well, and during those inevitable rough periods, she always had the right words. She pushed me to get back up, and do better.
I’m at a new school and I think my luck with “hard” teachers is over. I am sadly mistaken. Barbara Brearley was tough. She had skin like leather but a heart of gold. She once called mama to inform her that I was getting a B, but that I would learn from it. That’s typical of a teacher — always wanting their students to learn from something. Mrs. Brearley assigned me my first research paper on the Highland Games in Scotland. Scotland County was hosting Highland Games, and on her own time and money, Mrs. Brearley took myself and another student.
I’m eleven years old and have this small arrogance. I’m a sixth grader; the top dog of Washington Street. I have Rachel Fields. For those of you who do not know, she is yet another teacher notorious for her hard work. The original dread and fear I had entering her classroom was replaced by admiration. Ms. Fields was also witty and sensitive. There was a student singing to himself and we were minutes from going outside for recess. She informed him the class would go to recess once he stood up and sang the song he was singing. In a matter of seconds, the entire class was singing Blink 182’s “All The Small Things” in chords I never knew existed. I graduated NCSU with a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology. I’ll be the first to tell you, hard is an understatement. The professors I encountered were some of the most difficult I’ve ever had. My sophomore year I called home to tell my mother I was changing my major. Science just was not for me. In order to succeed in a major such as Microbiology, one must have a passion. A passion that refuses to let you quit even though you’re at your breaking point. Back to Ms. Fields: We were grading papers in class one day, and the question on the test was “Why are humans unable to feel the rotation of the Earth?” Ms. Fields gave the answer she was looking for and one child raised his hand. “Ms. Fields, what if they have, ‘Humans are unable to feel the rotation of the Earth because they are so small when compared to size of the Earth.’” She asked whose paper the child was grading. “Katie Easterling’s,” he said. “Give that answer 5 extra points,” Ms. Fields told him. Thus, the fire that would later fuel my passion for science had its spark.
I’m in the tenth grade at a new school. I am the lowest on the totem pole that is high school. My parents and I mapped our way through Richmond Senior not only to help me find my classes, but also to meet my new teachers. Intimidation does not begin to describe my feelings when I met my Algebra II teacher. Once again, I was terrified. Michael Chapman taught in a way that made math fun, as if that is even possible. When a student was confused, he refused to leave a problem until that one student fully understood every detail. He encouraged me to take Calculus my senior year, and against my wishes, I did. “You’ll thank me for this later. I promise,” He told me. Needless to say, I aced both levels of Calculus at NCSU. After a year of teaching, he transformed from my Algebra II teacher to my mentor. Although I was no longer learning Algebra, he continued to teach me lesson after lesson on life, friendships, and the future.
It’s ironic to me that 13 years after I told my mother to leave me in kindergarten, I was mentally begging my parents to not leave me in Raleigh; to just pack everything up and take me back home. Fear of the unknown is normal, though. There is no way one can prepare for the twists and turns of the unknown future. When I look back on my four years of undergraduate study, I realize I had the utensils and brains to get through the twists and turns of the unknown not only because of my parents, but because of the dedication and love that was given by the teachers who helped raise me. I am so thankful that lady luck was not on my side in scoring the easy teachers. The level of difficulty I experienced in all of my classes only prepared me for what I would later face at the university level. The teachers mentioned above never gave me anything — everything I was given was earned. The only things freely handed over were life lessons.
The most important lesson: Anything worth having is never easy, and you will have to work for it.
This is the passion of a true teacher. To not only share their knowledge in a particular subject, but to also help mold and prepare a child for the world they will one day become a working member of. Although I cannot tell you the name of every professor I had at NC State, I can tell you the name of every teacher and their subject throughout my thirteen years in Richmond County Schools. It is because of my parents and the teachers I came in contact with that I am the person I am. I cannot thank every teacher I’ve had, but I can only hope they know the impact they had on my life. To the retired teachers, you have no idea the positive influence you have had on hundreds of students. I think it’s safe to thank you not only for myself, but for all of the students you have taught. Thank you for making it hard when it could be so easy. Thank you for your passion. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Thank you for being our friend.