The end of August is rapidly approaching and that can only mean one thing — school is almost here. Those back to school commercials always seem to show up way too early on my television, but I simply cannot deny it any longer. This fall will bring yet another semester behind a desk instead of in front of it (I’m still in grad school for my teaching degree) and that inevitably means many hours of daydreaming. Yes, I admit that I am a teacher’s worst nightmare and I will probably get stuck with many students just like me someday (thanks, Karma), but I take comfort in the fact that not every successful person was necessarily good in school.
At the Benton School, Walt Disney wasn’t exactly a model student. He was described as a dreamer and thanks to his demanding paper route, he was often asleep or seemingly preoccupied. After experiencing what it is like to be both a teacher and a student, I know how hard it can be to stay engaging or pay attention. It’s a delicate balance and after almost 19 years worth of schooling, there is only one teacher that had always kept my attention in class. (How sad is that?)
While Walt wasn’t a model student, one teacher seemed to understand him better than the rest. Miss Daisy Beck would be a teacher that would stand out in Walt’s mind for years to come. He would describe the “great patience, understanding and incredible faith” she had towards him. She also coached the school’s track team and when she urged him to try out despite not being able to partake in after-school activities because of the paper route, Walt ended up winning a medal on the sixty-pound relay team. He didn’t consider himself an athlete so that memory would be something he’d cherish for the rest of his life.
Everyone at the Benton School knew that drawing was Walt’s passion. He’d draw in the margins of textbooks and even on the board sometimes. Knowing this, Miss Beck had Walt draw all of the posters for school events. Drawing soon became his identity to everyone in the school and when he graduated, the Benton School awarded him with a diploma as well as a seven-dollar prize for a comic character he had drawn. Years later, he told the Kansas City Journal Post, “I am still prouder of that money than any I have earned since. I really think that is what started me as an artist.”
I’m sure Miss Beck was proud of how far her pupil had gone as well. Walt had stayed in contact with her through good old snail mail until she died. People always say that if you’re a teacher and you reach at least one student, you’ve had a successful career. I’m sure in her later years, reflecting on her time at the Benton School, Miss Beck felt nothing less than extraordinary.