Skip to content

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” – William Arthur Ward

John, wheelchairThe last time I saw Cathy Collins was at her house.

Her husband, Jack, met me at the front door, shook my hand and guided me through the house back to his wife. She was in their family room, resting in a large hospital bed. She had white hair, wore rimmed glasses and a bright smile. Cathy had joy in her voice as she welcomed me.

Before this visit it had been more than 20 years since we had visited. After learning she was diagnosed with cancer, and not responding to treatment, I wanted to see her, visit with her and thank her.

You see, two decades earlier the situations were reversed.

I was a scared, medicated, little kid recovering from burns in a hospital bed. I had bandages over my entire body, was connected to various machines, and was being prepared to go home. She was called in to tutor this nine-year-old boy who was in pain, could not focus, had no fingers, and didn’t really like school in the first place!

She walked into my room, pulled back the curtain around my bed, stepped into my life, flashed that big smile, and changed everything.

Cathy didn’t see bandages or scars, she didn’t see disabilities or insurmountable odds. Instead this fine teacher saw a little boy, who needed more time to heal, required a lot of help, but had limitless potential beneath the surface.

After I came home from the hospital she tutored me in order that I might catch up with my class. She then continued her efforts until I was physically well enough to return to school. She made learning fun, she made homework a joy, she made quizzes easy, and she made difficult days endurable. In other words, she was an awesome teacher.

So in her house that evening I sat down next to her, gave her a big hug and told her thank you. I thanked her for believing in me when few others did, tutoring me when few others could, and loving me when I so desperately needed to know that everything would be alright.

I thanked her for dropping pebbles of encouragement, inspiration, knowledge, passion, and humor into my life. I thanked her for helping shape the man I became. I was now a college graduate, business owner, married to a wonderful lady, had a child, and absolutely loving life.

After I shared my gratitude, there was a long pause.

She wiped her eyes, smiled again and loudly proclaimed, “You graduated school?! There is a God and miracles happen!”

This woman exuded joy and humor when she worked with me as my teacher. This woman exuded that same joy, that same beautiful humor, until the end.

Cathy Collins also paints a clear road map for the rest of us to follow as we lead our children, our classes, our business and our lives forward. She exemplifies how a zest for life is contagious and can spark in others a yearning to grow, learn, serving and impact.

So thank you Mrs. Collins. In the classroom that was my kitchen table as a kid, you told, explained, demonstrated and inspired. And I remain grateful for your invaluable lessons on school and life.

Thanks, too, for reminding the rest of us that regardless the subject we may teach, there is no finer foundation, no clearer lesson plan, and no more effective motivation than love. [Click to Tweet.]

Today is your day. Live Inspired.

As the school year begins, let’s take a moment to celebrate the teachers who have most profoundly influenced us. Share your teacher’s name in the comments below and tell me a little about what made him or her so important to you. I waited 20 years to tell Cathy Collins. Can’t wait to hear about yours today!

0 replies on “The Teacher Cathy Collins”

Virginia Derry, now 88 years young and still driving herself around, was our choral director in junior high, then high school. She truly loved (and still loves) every one of us as the individuals we were and are. Many of us still keep in touch with her – 9 of us had lunch with her just this past weekend and will have a potluck/sing-a-long in her home mid-September.

She was the teacher people came out to (she was also a Southern Baptist) because she completely accepted any and all. Many of us were misfits. We fit in when we walked into her class. It was like having a family outside of our homes. She has a quick wit, and easy laugh, and can lead a prayer like nobody’s business.

She’s one of the last people still around who remembers my parents, now both deceased. She’s like everybody’s second mom. I cannot express the depths of my gratitude for this woman. She encouraged everyone to always do their best – and we worked HARD for her because we knew the end result would be her tears as she looked at us at the end of a concert…and more tears at the end of the spring concert when all four choirs entered the stage to sing He Ain’t Heavy. #memoriesareforever

Love the quote! I had a teacher, Barbara Eason, in 11th grade. Algebra 2 was the subject, and I was only in the class because my college-bound friends needed to take it. I had no intention of going to college, my parents had no money, and my defeatist attitude had resulted in mediocre or below grades, to cinch the deal that high school would be the end of my higher education. Until Miss Eason. She had had my brilliant older sister in the past, so assumed I must be smart, too. I didn’t think so, but she kept nagging and pushing me to learn until I got really tired of it. So tired that I decided to “show her” and went from a “D” to an “A” in 6 weeks! So tired that since I was already now working in HER class, I decided I might as well do my best in my other classes. So tired that my C, D and F grades one grading period turned into straight A’s (with an occasional B) for the last year and a half of high school. So tired that I ended up with a 3.2 average by graduation, no small miracle considering what my GPA had been before Miss Eason’s class! Fast forward many years. Not only did I go to college and get an Associate’s Degree in Physical Therapy, working that field for 36 years now, but later went back and got a Bachelor’s Degree…Magna Cum Laude, thank you very much, Miss Eason! The power of one…

You asked my favorite teacher or the one who made the biggest impression on my life in your Monday morning newsletter. My Mother was an English teacher. Even when not in school during the summer we had “homework” which at the time I did not like. She also “forced” me to take a typing class in High School. Now that I’m over 50 and she is, well Erma Bombeck puts it her age is unlisted, I thank her everyday for being able to read your newsletter, type this reply, and to get most of it grammatically correct. Also most of her answers back then were eitehr to look it up or figure it out. This has served me very well in the business world. Being able to think for myself.

Beautiful lesson from your mother and teacher. “LOOK IT UP!” Thanks for sharing, Ray, and thanks for letting your mom know the impact she had on your life. J

Two come to mind. Carol McGuire, a sixth grade social studies teacher and sports junkie. Her love for whatever sport and subject that her “Sharon boys” excelled in gave me a drive to stand up and speak out. Long after sports faded away her belief that we could accomplish anything we set our minds too continues to drive me. My second was a high school music instructor named Lynda Thompson. Her direction, guidance, and belief in my God given natural ability has allowed to accomplish a lot of things singing and performing. That guidance goes way beyond music though. Singing gave me the ability to stand up and speak before large crowds and accomplish many tasks in my working career. Without these two beautiful and dedicated women I shudder to think what I would have accomplished in my life. Thanks to both of them for their support. Miss McGuire is now gone; I spoke and sang at her funeral. I know she looked down from above and heard every word that I said. Lynda is still here and I thank her often for her belief in a poor country kid from the western mountains of Virginia.

I am now at the 2015 Buffini Master Mind and I find myself thinking, How can any speaker compete with you. This year you have inspired me to try and do things, I wouldn’t normally have done. Thank you for Mondays. Sheila

Sheila, I know you are having an awesome time at the Buffini Master Mind event! Thx for your sweet words – it is friends like you who keep me motivated to do the work that I do. I will be at the Buffini and Company Success Tour in TX in October – will you be there? J

Kathy Walker, Mansfield High School, Mansfield Texas – who saw that I struggled, though no one knew why (Finally diagnosed with Dyslexia my Soph year of College), but knew I loved to read and always made me feel as I could do whatever I wanted to in spite of my challenges – the first teacher who believed in me and made me believe in me. I credit her with me finally completing my Bachelors Degree in 2011, a little behind the anticipated year of 1985, but I DID IT!

My freshman English teacher in high school was Peggy Luebbert. She inspired me to be a leader in my life and at school. This encouragement has been a driving force in my leadership to provide leadership to the relationships in my life!

Sister Donna Marie from Bishop Hafey High School, was my chemistry teacher Chemistry was not my strong suite however this woman gave me the extra help and even when I would fall asleep in her class she never gave up on making sure I going to pass this subject I so hated. She showed me a love for caring and believing in myself.

I had a college professor, who believed in me. I never felt very smart, she suggested I go take an IQ test… LOW and behold I was pretty smart…Then I began to realize that my best friend was #2 in a HS class of over 1,000… but because I was not as disciplined I thought I was stupid! Then I applied for the masters program and was rejected… so she encouraged me not to give up… and gave me other ideas of how I can achieve the same goal! She believed in me! I now have a Masters degree and run the nation’s largest company in my field…. Sharon Hall I thank you!

Wanted to thank a special teacher in my kids’ lives…Mrs. Cathy Shupe, former 3rd grade teacher at St. Richard. Ask anyone who went to St. Richard (and their parents) and the first thing they will say is, “We love Mrs. Shupe!” Thanks, Cathy, for all your love and caring to ALL the STR kids.

I would not have the great life I now enjoy without the influence of Sister Mary Gerold, SSND. Sister Gerold taught me that joy & beauty are the way to God, and that suffering is a choice, not a requirement. Through creativity and conversation she opened up world’s of seen and unseen realities, of never-ending abundance and providence, and a life of joyful service.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Live Inspired Together is a community of friends changing the world together, starting with their own. In a world that often focuses on negativity, John O’Leary - Live Inspired shares the other side of the story through his member-supported channels (essays, Live Inspired Podcast, video, webcasts, social platforms) to connect our community and share inspiration and actions to live it. Support now.