Ruppersberger recalls his favorite teacher

May 05, 2011

I never had my favorite teacher in the classroom. Mr. Verlangas was the moderator of the safety patrol at Leith Walk Elementary School, of which I was the proud captain. At that time, my father suffered a major heart attack. He was in the hospital, and we didn't know if he was going to make it. At a time in my life when I needed a male role model most, Mr. Verlangas was there to help me navigate the tough days. I wanted desperately to be in his classroom, but it never came to be.

My father lived until he was 84, but I never forgot Mr. Verlangas' kindness. He showed up again in the mid-1970s when I was in a terrible car accident. Mr. Verlangas checked in with my mom throughout my long recovery.

I don't know where Mr. Verlangas is today — or even if I remember the spelling of his name correctly — but I think about him often, especially this time of year as we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week across the country. I come from a family of educators — my grandmother, mother, wife, sister and sister-in-law were or are all teachers — and I know they have touched the lives of many young people like Mr. Verlangas touched mine. Education isn't just about textbooks, syllabuses and pop quizzes. The best teachers give us so much more, like inspiration, confidence and compassion.

So, Mr. Verlangas was the best teacher I never had. He didn't teach reading, grammar or math. He taught children. In Maryland, we are lucky to have the best of the best — teachers who have led our schools to become the best in the nation three consecutive years. Let's take a moment to thank them.

Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Washington

The writer, a Democrat, represents Maryland's 2nd District.

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