Today is my mum's birthday. My mum is a wild and free thing with an eye for adventure. She is a lifelong learner and a subject matter expert on kindheartedness in all situations. She is a nebulous blend of social butterfly and introvert. She is also an accomplished ping pong player, although it is said that my sister can beat her.
Above all of these things, however, my mum is a teacher at her core.
Before my sister and I even came along, she taught first grade at a small private school, where she was unilaterally adored. See below for evidence.
When my sister and I were born, my mum homeschooled both of us while my family shipped around the world in a 52-foot sailboat. My mum filled our homeschool days with hands-on learning, creativity, and a passion for understanding. Somehow, my sister and I both came back to the states performing above our grade levels.
When our church was in need of a high school youth leader, my mum shrugged and volunteered. Her young heart and passion for fun drew kids in and, within a year, youth group attendance almost doubled.
My mum also teaches Sunday School at our church and has done so on and off for most of her life. Wrangling preschoolers anytime before noon on a weekend morning is a task I'm not well-suited for, but my mum is magic. She corrals them with laughs and smiles; they all learn and have a grand time together while most of the world is still fumbling for their morning coffees.
Outside the classroom is actually where most of my mum's teaching takes place. Her patient, humble, and silly heart naturally shares and encourages learning in those around her. She teaches forgiveness, goodnaturedness, and optimism to anyone lucky enough to spend time with her.
Every year at Christmas, my sister and I unwrap and hang countless ornaments addressed to 'Miss Oien' or 'Mrs. Hashem' from a small sampling of the innumerable students whose lives she brightened. And I think how lucky I am to have learned most everything I know from a teacher like her.