A bottle of wine for a beloved teacher06 december 2011, 17:18
It was the kind of moment that makes life worthwhile, that is so precious that you walk away feeling a rosy glow.
It happened on a recent trip to Almaty.
My professor buddy Gabriel McGuire and I were having lunch in Almaty with two of the most respected teachers at Public School Number 159. That school on Kabanbai Batyr Street near Pushkin Street is one of Kazakhstan’s best, largely because of its outstanding prinicipal, Ayagul Mirazova.
She has a superb supporting cast, however. Gabe and I were eating with two of the best, math teacher Bakhytzhamal Dusebayeva and English teacher Saule Saidikeyeva.
Between them, they have won a fistful of awards for their classroom prowess, including trips overseas to hone their skills.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev was so taken with Dusebayeva’s skills that he gave her a new apartment a few years back.
And the mayor of Tucson, Arizona, was so impressed with the visiting Saidikeyeva that he awarded her a key to the city.
The lunch with the teachers was at the Verona restaurant on Boganbai Baytr. Its speciality is Italian food – and it’s excellent.
But in keeping with tradition, and with next week’s 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s independence in mind, this day we were eating Kazakh food.
It was fun talking with the teachers as we nibbled away.
I can spot an outstanding teacher right away – even without being in the classroom with her – and both Dusebayeva and Saidikeyeva have “the right stuff.”
It starts with enthusiasm. Both women talked passionately about how they loved their craft and how they enjoyed helping shape young lives.
When Saidikeyeva’s husband died a few years ago, she said, family and friends wanted her to take considerable time off to heal.
But she missed her students so much that after an appropriate number of weeks, she returned to the classroom, to the great relief of her admiring brood.
“I couldn’t stay away,” she said. “I love my students.”
Her return helped her heal quicker.
Near the end of our meal, Verona manager Arman Akhmetov surprised Dusebayeva by presenting her with a bottle of excellent-quality red wine.
She hadn’t ordered it, so she asked why it had come to our table.
“One of your former students was just here,” Akhmetov said. “He didn’t want to bother you and your group by coming to your table. But he wanted to send you a token of his respect.”
An always-curious journalist, I wanted to know more about the gift giver.
“He’s 22 and working at the Ministry of Finance,” Akhmetov said. “He’s my friend.”
Dusebayeva said his name was Chingiz Mukhtarbekov. He is one of seven brothers and sisters, all of whom she has taught.
I didn’t get a chance to meet Chingiz. But I’d like to pass on my thanks for the tribute he gave his teacher.
All of us remember teachers who enriched our lives, inspired us to learn, made us think we could conquer the world.
Most of us have never told those teachers what they meant to us.
But you did it, Chingiz.
And in such a classy way.
You deserve the best.