Teachers and students of life
Many times in life, we encounter special teachers. Sometimes, they are conventional teachers who teach in some sort of school setting. Other times, they are people we meet in other contexts.
One of the first teachers who made an impact on me was Mr. Hernandez, my high school senior math teacher. Mr. Hernandez believed in me and believed I could pass my senior exams. See, I have a rare math learning disorder called dyscalculia. It’s similar to dyslexia, but with numbers. It made math class nearly impossible. But Mr. Hernandez stayed with me after school to do make-up work and talk math problems out. He was the first person to really take my problem seriously and thought I might have dyscalculia.
My second significant teacher in life was a cowboy named John Sanford from East Texas. John had an accent so thick you could cut it with a cake knife, and for quite some time I had a terrible time understanding what he said. John taught me a lot about horses, riding and life lessons. Before I started riding and boarding my horse with John, I had ridden english and then saddleseat, which is a type of riding for the gaited American Saddlebred horse. This style of riding was much more stressful and put a lot of tension on the horse and rider (I felt). Riding wasn’t as much fun. I found John’s barn just 10 minutes from my mother’s house. Not used to western riding, he and a few of the other ranch hands made some good fun of my tight riding pants and little boots. “Honey, what you need is some real boots,” he said to me. John taught me about barrel racing, pole bending and different aspects of western riding. He taught me not to take horses so seriously. “If you ain’t having fun then it ain’t worth it,” he used to say. It was because of John I went on the Weatherford College to enroll in their two-year equine science program.
My third great teacher in life was Dan Malone, one of my journalism professors at Tarleton State University. Dan’s wife, Kathryn Jones-Malone, also a journalist, teaches news editing and photojournalism. Both had an impact on me, but Dan had the most impact. When I decided to attend Tarleton and finish my bachelor’s degree, I didn’t even plan on majoring in journalism. I had planned on getting a degree in agricultural communications. However, after a semester of working with Dan, who is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, I decided to switch over to “the dark side,” as he called it. Dan taught me everything I know and I completely credit him for everything I know today. Kathryn also taught me a great deal about photojournalism and I can still hear her voice in class telling us, “don’t be afraid to get in there,” to get the perfect shot.
Dan spent countless hours teaching me how to become a great journalist. He wasn’t afraid to tell me when I wrote something bad and he wasn’t always nice about it, but then offered solid suggestions on how to improve my writing and interviewing skills. Dan was also the person to give me the nickname “Coldheart,” after interviews and stories I did with several politicians. Dan’s teaching techniques have produced some great award-winning journalists in their own right- I would say 90 percent of the students in the communications program of my year work in the journalism industry in some capacity.
I myself am becoming a teacher of sorts. I’ve had two interns under my belt since I took the editor position at the Star and it has been a very rewarding experience. It’s quite different to work in a newsroom out in the real-world than one in a college classroom. The deadlines are tighter, the risks higher and the stress can be unreal. Maybe, one day, I’ll be in the shoes of Dan and Kathryn, teaching the next wave of journalists.
Bethann “Coldheart” Coldiron is the editor of the Burleson Star.