Cindy Terebush Discusses Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and the Lessons of Imaginary Numbers

Noodle Expert Cindy Terebush shares what imaginary numbers taught her about being a compassionate educator.

Who would you pick, alive or dead, to be your teacher for a year? What would you want to learn?

It is difficult to pick just one person to learn from for one year. I would prefer to spend several years learning from people of different eras. I enjoy history and would like to learn from the people who lived it.

If I have to choose one person, or at least the person I would start with on my multi-year odyssey through history, I would pick Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Mrs. Onassis was very much of her time. She was the quintessential wife of the 1960’s but all of it in the public eye. She survived tragedy, worked to protect her children from the media spotlight, and evolved to have a career of her own. I would like to hear about her perspective on being First Lady and how the world changed during her lifetime. I would hope to learn about how she faced difficult times, raised her children in challenging circumstances, and continued to grow as the role of women changed.

What is one small piece of advice that has had a big impact on your life?

I have been very fortunate to have received great advice during my life journey. The one piece that had the greatest effect came from my father: During a typical pre-teen moment when I felt that he wasn’t treating me fairly, he told me that respect is earned. While I don’t know if this remark changed our relationship, I do think it has influenced many facets of my life.

Knowing that respect is earned has been the basis for my work ethic, my interactions in business, my method of parenting, and my work with children. If we want kids to respect us, we have to earn it. We need to honor their feelings, respect their intelligence, and treat them with kindness. When we engage with them respectfully, they are open to sharing their view of the world with us and to learning from us.

Where would you send a student who hasn't traveled before?

If I had a student who had not traveled before, I would take her to Washington D.C. I would show her how accessible the United States government is to its citizens. The city also offers experiences to satisfy a variety of interests. We could go from politics and government to history, art, and architecture. We could choose from among the many different Smithsonian museums. Washington D.C. is not only the United States capitol; it is a hub for learning about and exploring any subject you can imagine.

When was a time that you failed academically, and what did you learn from the experience?

I am definitely the more creative type, and I struggled with math and science. I remember that in my last year of high school math, the class started talking about imaginary numbers. I thought, “Okay, that’s it — either you have one or you don’t.” I had always been determined that math and science would not keep me from earning honor roll, but that year, I knew I was done. I worked hard and squeaked out a C, with tests and quizzes that ranged from A’s to F’s.

I remember feeling so lost in this class that it was as if the teacher and other students were speaking a foreign language. Whenever I see a student struggling, I try to remember what it felt like to have everyone around me seem to understand, while I thought, “What is going on here?” I also wonder why I didn’t go to my guidance counselor and beg for a different math class. I suspect that I wasn’t willing to accept defeat, and I still don’t do well with it. I guess I still have lessons to learn from a high school math class in which imaginary numbers baffled me!

Why did you go into your field, and how is it different from what you expected?

Like many people, I didn’t go directly into my field. It’s been a journey that took many twists and turns, but one that ultimately landed me where I belong. When I was in college, my mother advised me to get a teaching certification because I might someday want to be an educator. When I graduated from college, I initially worked in marketing, but by the time I had children, I realized my mother was right. I began to work as a tutor and teacher, and eventually, as a school director.

I took an educational leadership class in which I had to make a presentation. The instructor said I was a natural and asked me to present at a local conference. I was hesitant but did it. Thanks to word-of-mouth and the advice I took a couple of years later to write a blog, I haven’t stopped presenting, writing, and teaching educators and parents alike.

I wanted to expand this work, so I became a Certified Youth, Parent, Family Coach. I have had the honor of being asked to write for prestigious organizations like The Shriver Report, have spoken before crowds both small and large, and have signed a contract with Norton Publishing to write a book for early childhood educators. I could never have predicted that my career would take me to this place, but I am so very grateful for the journey!

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