Teachers are special. We all remember teachers we’ve had over the years – some good, some bad.
And I’m going to remember one very special first-grade teacher I photographed recently.
I dropped into Loretta Watson’s classroom looking for “last day of school” photos for a website update and our next day’s front page.
It was totally random – I just followed a line of kids returning to the classroom following lunch.
What I found was a teacher brimming with kindness and compassion for each of her students. She would not let any student leave the classroom for the summer before giving that youngster a hug, perhaps a kiss and encouraging words.
The fourth frame I shot was the one we used on our front page:
First-grade teacher Loretta Watson gives student Abel Roduarte a kiss on the last day of school at Nob Hill Elementary School in Yakima, Wash. June 13, 2012. She gave each of her students a kiss, a hug and encouraging words before the end of class on Wednesday. It's important to speak to each youngster, says Watson, because "We've come a long way together this year and want them to leave knowing they're ready for second grade." Watson says she's been teaching school for "27 or 28 years," with the last 10 years spent as a first grade at Nob Hill Elementary School. (GORDON KING/Yakima Herald-Republic)
This one photo has context, emotion and good body language so that’s why it was my first choice.
We used others in the photo gallery, including:
Students gather around first-grade teacher Loretta Watson on the last day of classes at Nob Hill Elementary School June 13, 2012 to look at photos taken during the school year. (GORDON KING/Yakima Herald-Republic)
Not bad, but there’s not much emotion in the photo.
And this one:
First-grade teacher Loretta Watson hugs student Siana Salinas, 8, on the last day of classes at Nob Hill Elementary School in Yakima June 13, 2012. Watson hugged each of her students and gave them encouraging words before the end of class on Wednesday. It's important to talk with each student, says Watson, because "we've come a long ways together this year and I want them to leave knowing they ready for the second grade." Wednesday was the last day of classes for most schools in the Yakima School District. Classes resume Aug. 29. (GORDON KING/Yakima Herald-Republic)
An emotional moment for the teacher but I can’t see the student’s face.
And, this one.
Teacher Loretta Watson laughs at the drawings on a good-bye card given to her by student Amelie Van Tassell, right, on the last day of school at Nob Hill Elementary School in Yakima June 13, 2012. It was the last day of classes for most schools in the Yakima School District. Van Tassell had drawn a figure of Watson, complete with spiky hair. (GORDON KING/Yakima Herald-Republic)
This photo has good emotion but I’m bothered by the two people in the background are distracting. Also, there’s a fair amount of empty space between the teacher and the student.
As I’ve written before, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some very wonderful people in the course of doing my job here. Loretta Watson is one of those people. I feel privileged – and lucky – to have spent time with Ms. Watson on that last day of school.
Teachers are special people with their ability to influence a youngster’s life and Loretta Watson is the most special of all.