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Teacher inspires her former fifth grader to pursue teaching
Daniel Golden (left) isn't the only former student Angela Abbott (center) has gotten to teach twice; Kara Alexander (right), was a sixth-grade student of Abbott's at Baxter Middle School in 1999.

Teacher inspires her former fifth grader to pursue teaching

When Daniel Golden was a fifth grader at Central Elementary in Baxter Springs, his teacher, Angela Abbott, wrote him a letter, in cursive, praising how much he had progressed as a student and his kind and cooperative nature.

"If you ever need anything, I will always be here for you, Daniel," wrote Abbott before placing it in a scrapbook that she carefully created for each one of her fifth graders.  

That was May 18, 2004. 

It eventually wound up in a plastic tote, stored with other childhood mementos in his parents' garage, while Golden went on to graduate from high school and begin work on an associate's degree in computer science. 

On April 27, 2014, that tote with the letter was picked up by a tornado and plucked out of the Goldens' garage along with many other belongings and discarded on the street. 

But this week, American Education Week, as Abbott and her colleagues were celebrating what it means to be a teacher, that letter was back on her desk — not at Central Elementary, where she taught for nearly 20 years, but at Pittsburg State University, where she accepted a position in the College of Education in 2012. 

Her focus is training the next generation of teachers. 

And looking at it with her? 

Daniel Golden, now a senior education major who is set to graduate in May.

His inspiration, he said, was Abbott. 

"She was fantastic," Golden said. "Everything we did was always hands-on. Everything we did stood out. She still ranks as my favorite teacher." 

Golden decided during his pursuit of a degree in computer science that it just wasn't the right career for him. 

"I thought back to people who really impacted my life, thought back to them and what they did, and I decided I wanted to make a difference like them," he said.

After completing his associate's degree in elementary education in 2015, he transferred to PSU and found himself once again in Abbott's class. 

"I was excited," said Golden, who has her this semester for classes in intermediate reading and classroom management. "And now, I am able to see everything we did in fifth grade from the opposite perspective — from the perspective of a teacher instead of a student. I love that she's teaching from her experiences. It makes it more meaningful." 

That includes a lesson she gave Golden and his fifth-grade classmates in Six Trait Writing using one of the popular "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books. He recycled that assignment as a student of hers this semester, something Abbott found surreal. 

"There was the child Daniel, and now the grown-up Daniel, and it's so special to see that transformation," she said.

Golden focused on Abbott in a paper earlier this semester in which he was to describe the "best teacher." 

"I remember the atmosphere of the classroom was always a positive one," he wrote, then going on to describe several activities he still remembers in detail.  

He also noted that despite his brother's best efforts to achieve perfect attendance in Abbott's fifth-grade class, he grew seriously ill and was in the hospital the last week of school. "On the last day of school, Mrs. Abbott flew out of Joplin and came to see my brother in the hospital and presented him with an 'Almost Perfect Attendance record'," Golden wrote. 

"Mrs. Abbott was one of the only people, besides family, to come and see Jacob in the hospital. Nowhere in her contract did it say she needed to bring Jacob that award, but by doing so, she brought some light to a very dark time in my family's life," Golden continued. "This made such an impact on me that when I was deciding to go back to college, I thought back to that day and I decided I wanted to be a teacher like Mrs. Abbott — someone who could truly impact the lives of students." 

Golden is doing his practicum this semester at Lakeside Elementary in Pittsburg and doing an internship at Galena. He is set to do his student teaching in Galena next semester, then hopes to teach third or fourth grade. 

Few things have been more rewarding, Abbott said, than seeing him reach that point. 

Abbott, who herself received inspiration to become a great teacher from Dr. Alice Sagehorn and other faculty in the College of Education when Abbott was a student at PSU in the early 1990s, is now a three-time published author in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and also owns and operates a consulting company that provides professional development and empowerment for teachers, school districts, and other organizations. 

She holds two Bachelor of Science degrees from PSU in elementary education and psychology, along with a master's degree in education, and lives in Galena, Kansas.

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