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  • Janyne McConnaughey, PhD

Because a Teacher Cared

Updated: Aug 28, 2020

The following excerpt from my first book, BRAVE: A Personal Story of Healing Childhood Trauma, explains the reason I spent my life preparing teachers. My fifth-grade teacher had no idea I had suffered sexual abuse as a very small child. She did not know the reasons why I needed her attention so desperately. She simply cared.
The statistics on childhood abuse inform us that it is very likely there is at least one child who has suffered some form of abuse in every classroom. Like myself, they may have repressed the memory, but exhibit abuse-related behaviors. This truth cuts across all socioeconomic school settings. I was a pastor's daughter. The abuse occurred in a home day care setting when I was three. At this point of this story, my life had been disrupted by moving and I needed my teacher to care. She did. I have lost track of Mrs. Shultz, but the care she provided became part of my teaching every single day. Every student I cared about can thank Mrs. Shultz for the example she set.
Before my 5th grade year was over, we had moved again. It was inevitable—my mother hated the place we had moved to sight unseen. Our new location was an improvement, but leaving my friends behind was sad. A house in the suburbs with lots of children was much better though, and I was excited to be able to ride my bike again.

The only complication was my mother needing to finish her contract. She rented a small apartment in town where she taught and my brother attended high school. I would have to change schools from the country school where I was attending, finish the year in a new school and then go to another new school the following year.

That is when my teacher stepped in. She lived in town and offered to pick me up every day on her way to the country school. For probably two months she listened to my chatter all the way to school and back home again. I was in heaven! I am sure she missed the time to get her head together on the way to school and her quiet ride on the way back home. What a marvelous gift she gave me. We kept in touch for many years, but eventually lost contact during one of my many moves.

For over thirty years while training future teachers, this story was embedded in my first lecture. Now, understanding my challenges during those elementary years, I fully appreciate the gift of friendship this teacher gave me. I was that kid who always wanted and needed to have the teacher’s attention. While delightful and bright, my need for attention must have been taxing. She filled me up to overflowing and sent me off to the next school believing teachers would take care of me and help me to survive.

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