The Greatest School Teacher

As a school administrator for 27 years, I had the good fortune to see great teaching on a daily basis. I supervised and evaluated some of the best teachers who ever lived. There is something special about a great teacher… a person who can inspire children and bring out the best in them.

The great teacher brings joy to the classroom. Happiness. The great teacher builds children up and makes each child thing he or she is the most special – because they are. They’re all special. The great teacher knows this. The great teacher celebrates and promotes this.

The great teacher makes learning fun. The great teacher has a way of getting children to believe in themselves. Amazingly, the great teacher seems to do this effortlessly, although, in order to do this, the great teacher puts in a tremendous amount of work before ever stepping foot into the school building or the classroom. This work takes place daily. It never ends. And it’s never a burden. When the work is for children, it is good work, it is necessary work, and the great teacher does all of this because it matters. She does this because the children matter.

And because of this great and necessary work, the great teacher matters.

The great teacher smiles and gives hugs. The great teacher brings out smiles from the children. The great teacher is the one that children see and instantly feel warm and secure inside. The great teacher cares and promotes caring in others.

It is easy to spot the greatest teachers. They are the ones who radiate joy. They are the ones who always seem to have children around them. They are the ones children run to or wave to across the playground. They are the ones that the children love.

Great teachers make children feel better with a kind word or a smile. They also know of the healing powers that come from a drink of water or an ice pack. Children believe in the great teacher because the great teacher is sincere. Her love of the children, her passion for helping them grow and thrive and succeed is genuine. It comes from the heart, and it is real. This love is also abundantly clear.

The great teacher touches lives, forever. And not just the lives of her students. She makes her school a better place by spreading kindness, empathy, compassion, and love. She sets a standard that others seek to reach, knowingly or not, as they see the tremendous positive impact she is making on precious lives every single day.

The great teacher is committed to her students, to her school, and to the profession. She knows her work matters. She invests all of herself in that work. This also brings her joy, but that’s not why she does it. She does this work because she knows that her work is eternal, that the children she is teaching and nurturing will remember this work, if not directly, but in their hearts, forever and that many, or most, if not all, will repay that great work countless times in the future.

Parents recognize that great teacher. They ask the principal for their child to be in her class because they know it matters. It’s an amazing thing to see parents crying at the end of the school year, not only because their child is growing, but because the special year their child had with the most wonderful teacher has come to an end.

Great teachers touch lives forever. They bring warmth and joy daily. And those feelings have a way, because they come from the heart, of lasting forever. We remember the people who most touch our hearts. The great teacher touches ours.

The great teacher has a way of helping children to learn and grow and thrive. Learning is difficult. It’s hard. Yet, the great teacher, through her efforts, encourages, supports, guides, and motivates – and learning takes place. In her care, children grow and learn, sometimes in spite of themselves. And before they know it, they’re reading, understanding math, figuring out scientific principles, and learning some of life’s biggest lessons.

The great teacher fosters an environment of trust. The children trust their teacher, they know she is sincere. And they know she cares about each of them.

The great teacher plays favorites. Absolutely. Always. And every child in the classroom knows that he or she is her favorite.

I have seen hundreds and hundreds of teachers across many schools and across all of the grade levels. I’ve observed them. I’ve evaluated them. I have been in awe of so many of them.

Great teachers make a difference.

I am so fortunate that I have had the privilege and the honor and the good fortune to see the greatest teacher of all-time. I’ve seen this teacher in the classroom working her special magic. I’ve seen her with her students outside the school, in stores, on playgrounds, and around the town. I’ve seen her lead small groups and large groups and find ways to teach others around a small table or under a tree. I saw her teach her own children, daily, in a way like no other. I’ve witnessed the genuine love and appreciation that has come from the parents of the children that have been blessed enough to be in her classroom. I’ve listened to the stories from appreciative colleagues and friends. I have seen the passion and the work she puts in on a daily basis to be the best teacher she can be – always growing, always thriving, always caring. Deeply caring.

The greatest teacher has made so many differences in so many ways that she’ll never be able to know.

I always wanted to be the greatest teacher, but I always knew that I would never even be in this teacher’s league. She was (and is) greatness personified.

That greatest teacher is my wife Laurie. She is the best of all time and has been for so so long.

After a wonderful and very special career, she is retiring. It is well-deserved. She made her mark time and again. No one taught like she did. No loved her students as she did. She was (and is) the most special teacher. She is the greatest I’ve ever seen and ever known.

The greatest teachers leave a legacy of caring and love behind. Laurie has certainly done that. She might be leaving her school and her profession, but the impact she has left on the hearts and the lives of countless others will last forever.

And ever.

Congratulations Laurie for a wonderful career. For being the best.

Because you are.

And always will be.


He Chose…US!

I had the privilege of serving as the minister at Grace United Methodist Church in Wyckoff, NJ on Sunday, April 23, 2023.

The following is the sermon I delivered:


Have you ever looked at a common word and thought that it was spelled incorrectly?  You see the word, you can read it but it just doesn’t seem…correct.

I remember being in high school, probably not paying much attention to the teacher, and noticing the word “exit.”

I simply didn’t look right.

But it was, of course.

Sometimes words, properly spelled, don’t look right.


Continue reading “He Chose…US!”

Today I Said Goodbye To The School I Love

My retirement from public K-12 education began today.

I was fortunate that there weren’t too many people there to see me as I left the building. I must have been a sight to see. A grown man, a guy in his mid-50’s, face full of tears and sadness, walking away from a school… my school; the school I led for 14 wonderful years.

I was, it is, it will always be, a special school – a magical place for kids and adults. It is a magical place even for the principal. It’s a special school, a school defined by caring and love and respect and kindness. It is a school where the teachers truly care about kids. And it is a school where the teachers find and create innovative ways to teach the children.

Continue reading “Today I Said Goodbye To The School I Love”

Closing and Opening Doors To God

On July 11, 2021, I was asked to deliver the sermon at Grace United Methodist Church in Wyckoff, New Jersey.

The following is the transcript of my sermon.


God asks a lot of us.  All the time.  He wants us to be reverent.

He wants us to love him.

He loves us…

He asks us to pray.  He even had Jesus teach us how to pray.

God wants us to follow the Golden Rule.

He wants us to be kind, to be generous, to love… to love one another as he loves us. 

He asks us to honor our mothers and fathers, to not lust, or want, or use his name in vain.

Or take false idols.

Or to kill.

He asks a lot of us.

Because he loves us.

Continue reading “Closing and Opening Doors To God”

My Appearance on KSJE Discussing “Scattering The Ashes”

I am so please that so many people are loving my novel Scattering the Ashes. If you have not read it, I highly recommend that you do.

I was recently interviewed on KSJE’s “Wrire-On Four Corners” program.

You can listen to that interview here: Write-On Four Corners- June 2, 2021: Paul Semendinger, Scattering the Ashes

Setting A Place At The Table

Thanksgiving 2020


This Thanksgiving will be different from ones in the past.  This Thanksgiving might be the first one that includes the complete absence of friends, family… loved ones.

There will be smaller gatherings and many empty seats.  

There will be empty homes.  And empty hearts.

The turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and the rest may taste less rich and be less fulfilling because they cannot replace the void that will be continually present on this day.

There will be an absence of voices and of laughter.  

It will be a Thanksgiving with seemingly little to give thanks for – a Thanksgiving of emptiness.  

But, it doesn’t have to be that way.  Not entirely.  

Continue reading “Setting A Place At The Table”

The Humans of Teaching Podcast!

The newest episode of the Humans of Teaching podcast has been released!

This episode, #013 A Principal’s Principles, features Dr. Paul Semendinger who shares his great insights, philosophies, and more!

You can listen to this podcast through any of the following links: