Lasting impressions

Students cherish teachers' impact as well as the memories

Students cherish teachers' impact as well as the memories

November 10, 2006|by JULIE E. GREENE

SHARPSBURG - Betty Whipp Snyder thought everybody could sing; that it just came naturally.

"I never really took it seriously," she said.

Then her choral director at Hagerstown Junior College, Vaughn Crowl, told her before Christmas 1975 that she had something special and should take advantage of it.

After she performed her solo at a rehearsal, he walked up to her and said, "Do you realize what you have? Your voice - do you realize what you have?" she wrote to The Herald-Mail in an e-mail.

"Those words changed my life. I began to pursue singing with a passion I had never known before," wrote Snyder, 50, of Sharpsburg.


It's the job of teachers to help students learn, but sometimes something more happens. That something more might be an encouraging push to take advantage of a student's talent or just a student's lifelong lasting memory of appreciation for not giving up on him or her.

After Crowl's praise, Snyder joined Friends 'n Spirit, a community-based performance troupe that Crowl co-directed; sang in several local bands; and was choir director at Salem United Methodist Church in Keedysville for 14 years.

"Singing has become one of the joys of my life," wrote Snyder, who is a library/media specialist at Conococheague Elementary School.

She and Crowl sang together at weddings, and Snyder still sings at events such as parades, weddings and funerals.

On Saturday, Snyder will sing at Sharpsburg's Veterans Day ceremony at the Town Square at 11 a.m.

Crowl, 59, who lives near Rohrersville, said his 38 years of teaching have been rewarding and he loves teaching because of that and "because you have the blessing to be around people with wonderful potential and a wide variety of talents." Crowl teaches psychology at Hagerstown Community College and runs a student leadership program hosted by HCC.

Crowl said, at Christmas, he has received cards from students around the world.

"It's amazing how students will stay in touch with you," he said. "Teaching has been such an honor and such a blessing to have such wonderful students."

Crowl hasn't been the only teacher to make an impression on a student.

Nancy Smith, 43, of Hagerstown, remembered a Mrs. Burns who taught math at E. Russell Hicks Middle School in Hagerstown in the 1970s.

"She took the time and had the patience with the slower students," Smith said.

Burns made sure all the students learned the lesson before moving on.

"It is very important, especially if you feel like you're struggling to keep up," she said.

A Mr. McHale, who taught English and music at North Hagerstown High School, made a lasting impression on Gordon Guessford, 62, of Hagerstown, who graduated in 1962.

McHale had a good rapport with the students, Guessford said.

"I guess I could relate to him better," said Guessford, who retired in 1999 from working at the General Motors auto parts plant near Martinsburg, W.Va.

Guessford had an interest in music, but English was one of his bad subjects, he said.

By McHale relating better to Guessford in English class, Guessford said he tried harder.

Gerald Brunner, 65, of Hagerstown, couldn't recall details about Dorothy Semler's teaching style at Chewsville School but said she made him want to learn.

She was the first teacher he had. The year was 1946 and Brunner was 6.

"We had four rooms and eight grades, two grades in each room," said Brunner, who went on to serve in the Marine Corps and work at Hagerstown Lumber and Pangborn Corp.

"I remember she used to buy all of us a Christmas present, pencils with our names printed on it," he said. Students gave her presents too. Once Brunner's mom made Semler an apron and he would often bring her slices of country cured ham from his family's farm.

Joyce Rankin, of Hagerstown, remembered Mrs. Poffenberger teaching her home economics at Washington Street School in Hagerstown's West End.

"She took an interest in all the children and she tried to help you without making you feel you couldn't accomplish anything."

Poffenberger taught sewing and cooking to boys and girls in the seventh or eighth grades, Rankin said. "Everybody loved her," she said.

While Rankin now sews only when necessary, she said Poffenberger inspired her to cook and she's become quite a good cook.

"I plan ahead as she taught us so I have time to fix things creative and different," said Rankin, who hosts dinner parties with friends and family.

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