As a daughter and sister of teachers, and as a former teacher and college adjunct, I’m convinced that teaching is a family business. And not to leave anyone out, my Dad was on the faculty of Columbia Presbyterian School of Dentistry and taught courses from time to time at his alma mater, Howard University Dental College (as it was known when he graduated). Each was masterful in their knowledge and delivery.
Although I had a career in business, I never veered too far away from opportunities to teach others. Whether it was teaching classes at the local library, community college, senior center or through the United Way (financial literacy) or Urban League (Microsoft suite), I found opportunities to teach. The years I spent at LexisNexis included teaching the online legal and news database to clients at some of New York's top law firms and corporations. Teaching others helped me learn. And I learned to teach from some of the very best which were my own family.
Recalling the days I had the opportunity to watch my Mom and Dad at work, I could hardly believe how these two individuals could transform themselves from my parents to people who mesmerized their audiences. Especially challenging for the inner city students in South Jamaica, Queens, New York where Mom taught. She taught English and Social Studies like no other. And although she never traveled to faraway places, she was a scholar who had a mind like an encyclopedia (the internet had nothing on her). She embodied Dr. Kings approach of "the function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character--that is the goal of true education." The students whom my Mom taught walked a little taller after one of her animated classes on learning to be excellent in whatever they chose to do.
If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be be the best little shrub on the side of the hill. From What Is Your Life's Blueprint speech, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., October 26, 1967.
Dad approached his clinical work with ease and a sense of humor. He had a smile that could light up a runway. I remember how he would teach students something simple like brushing their teeth with a huge set of choppers called "Tuffy Tooth" which accompanied him to Columbia Presbyterian and into the dental clinics where he practiced in the New York City neighborhoods of Oceanhill Brownsville, Bedford Stuyvesant and Greenpoint in Brooklyn and Chinatown in lower Manhattan. He literally practiced what Martin Luther King, Jr. professed to "be the light and always hold on to love." Even when he was questioned or challenged as to being a "real" doctor, he'd smile broadly and say, "I suppose they'll never get to see just how qualified I am. Their loss, not mine." Dad spoke Chinese and Polish, as well as a few words of Spanish to put his patients at ease. It did.
My sister, Susan, decided after many years working in corporations as a paralegal, she'd transition to teaching and went back to school for a Masters in Special Education. She did this while caring for a young daughter and a husband who traveled frequently. Those night classes were a bear and I'd always text to make sure she packed something to eat. I was never so glad to congratulate a person when she received her graduate degree. She was going to enter the family business, no matter what.
While I can honestly say that as a young girl, I didn't envision my dream realized as an owner of a food business. However, it feels right. It's been an evolution to keep moving forward and to embrace a life of learning for which I'm grateful.
Pat Bennett is the founder and President of Pat's Granola, a Cleveland based food company. Pat's Granola is sold online at www.patsgranola.com and is also available at several Northeast Ohio businesses including:
Troubadour Coffee Roasters www.troubadourcoffeeroasters.com
Sports and Spine Physical Therapy www.sportspine.com
Local Flavors Shoppe www.localflavors.net
Rittman Orchards and Farm Market www.rittmanorchards.com
Cleveland Hopkins International Airport www.clevelandairport.com
Locle Box www.loclebox.com
Market Wagon Northeast Ohio www.marketwagon.com
Made Cleveland www.madecleveland.com
Mister Brisket www.misterbrisket.com