Jackson Doughart
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In praise of a teacher
Sharon MacDonald's quiet career of achievement

The Journal-Pioneer, 12 July 2011

It has become rather banal to insist that teachers are undervalued, underappreciated and taken for granted. However, I feel this rings true nonetheless in the case of Sharon MacDonald, a high school teacher of English and history whose decision to retire in June brought an end to her 36-year career.

Sharon transferred to Kensington High School in the fall of 2006 when I was beginning Grade 10. She previously taught for decades at Westisle Composite High School.

In Kensington, she proved to be versatile member of the school staff, as she worked as both a librarian and a department head in addition to her instructional duties. She facilitated several extracurricular activities, including the drama club and the school talent show, and also helped to organize the Kensington Relay for Life, a major fundraising initiative for the Canadian Cancer Society. She always worked in a very quiet, unselfish and dignified manner.

Sharon was undoubtedly the single brightest and most important part of my high school experience. I feel honoured to have been taught by her and believe that she is worthy of substantial recognition.

When I first met Sharon in my Grade 10 writing class, I was quite intimidated by her. She gave the impression of being a strict and demanding teacher, whose vast knowledge of many subjects was very impressive. At the time, I was fortunate enough to be one of several students in my class who was getting through school rather easily and had become habituated to special treatment, which was leading to complacency.

To my surprise, Sharon did not give any unmerited leeway to her above-average students. In fact, I became quite frustrated when she would put equal pressure on us for our passive constructions and rotund paragraphs as she would on other students, some of whom could not form grammatically-correct sentences. My grades in her class were initially disappointing, which I chose to blame on her.

Some time later, I came to realize she was putting pressure on me in order to help me improve and become a more disciplined student. Her demanding attitude toward me was actually a form of recognition and not scorn. Perhaps unintentionally, I quickly developed a desire to impress Sharon with my work, which consequently led to an elevated work ethic and to raised personal standards. When I received a high grade at the end of the course, I felt a sense of accomplishment because my skills had actually improved.

During the rest of my time in high school, I frequently sought help from Sharon with my studies. Even outside of class time, she was always willing to assist me. I am quite confident in saying that her encouragement and instruction has helped me tremendously as a university student. For this I am infinitely in her debt
Sharon has also dramatically changed the way in which I judge educators. While I previously appreciated teachers who were nice to me and who treated me in a privileged way, Sharon taught me that the best teachers are those who challenge all students to better themselves.

As an amateur playwright and a lover of literature, Sharon is a life-long learner and is an excellent example to aspiring teachers. Her work both in the classroom and in extracurricular activities has made her a true asset to our community.

Finally, the difference that Sharon has made for me and for many other students is profound and I hope that she can take pride in her very accomplished career. I wish her a fulfilling retirement and best of luck in her future projects.

Jackson Doughart jdoughart (at) gmail (dot) com