It was in the third grade that our teacher told us what Thanksgiving is all about. I was just beginning to understand English. It was like a gong went off in my head.

She wrote the word “thanksgiving” on the board, separated it into two words, reversed them and said that on this day our nation is “giving thanks” to God. They were allowed to say that back then. No one in my house had ever known what Thanksgiving meant. I was the first to understand enough English and was eager to share.

I went home and explained to my parents why there was no school on Thursday and Friday that week. Because our nation would “dar gracias a Dios.” Mama beamed at me. She loved that her kids were in school. She had not had one day of education her entire life; she was from the country, you see. She was also a girl and, Lord, help us, a Hispanic.

Mama was proud that I stayed in school instead of being yanked out every spring for planting season up in Michigan, like my older brothers. She was eager that her children learn English. When I understood what the teacher said and shared it with her, well, it was as if she herself was in school. She had never heard the explanation about Thanksgiving Day, and she liked it.

Seems hard to believe, doesn’t it? In the past half-century, we Americans have worked hard to be certain that kids from the country get bused into school. And girls are included in everything. And that no children are left behind because they cannot speak English. It’s our way of life now.

It wasn’t always like that. Thanks God those days are gone. So as we give thanks this special season, let’s also remember to give thanks for our excellent schools. And let’s include our teachers. If you will allow, I want to publicly thank my grade school teachers for teaching me to read, which I do voraciously to this day, and write. They were wonderful teachers — I remember their names to this very day. Thanks to Mrs. Boris (first grade), Mrs. Cook (second), Mrs. Bennett (third), Mrs. Maxwell (fourth), Mrs. Hughes (fifth) and two very special teachers in the sixth grade, Mrs. Burge and Mrs. Madrid.

There has been a lot of talk lately about what teachers should teach and how they should do it. If it’s OK with you, I will leave that kind of talk to the politicians and to those people who believe that elected officials really can do something besides line their own pockets. I don’t.

You could take all the elected officials in our fair city and compare all the good they do for our community, and it would pale in comparison to what one good teacher does on a daily basis.

So this Thanksgiving Day, as we give thanks before our meal, let’s remember to also give thanks for our own grade school teachers, no matter how long ago it was, and mention them by name. And if you can’t remember their names, just think of their faces.

For I have seen the face of kindness; it is the face of a teacher.

RAMIRO VALDEZ has been a frequent guest columnist in the Denton Record-Chronicle and is a retired area counselor. He welcomes feedback and suggestions via letters to the editor or emailed to

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