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Tributes to Teachers

Last night, as I lay in bed, my mind was flittering about from one thought to another as it often does. I am not someone that nods off immediately after my head hits the pillow. Instead, my mind is left to its own devices. I might mentally rehash the day, plan out tomorrow's agenda, or wander off to the most curious of thoughts.

For some reason, I was remembering all my elementary school teachers. They were all women. I was recalling each of their names and remembering tidbits about their individual personalities. Then, amazingly, I realized that there was a mathematical sequence to the respectful titles we as students were expected to call them ... it went like this: Mrs, Miss, Mrs, Miss, Mrs, Miss. Funny how little discoveries, such as this will amaze a person who is drowsily drifting off to sleep. The same information is not nearly as amazing upon awaking.

In my odd grades (1st, 3rd, and 5th) my teachers were married women, and in the even grades (2nd, 4th, and 6th) my teachers were old maids. Of course we didn't call them "old maids" to their faces, only in the playground when we hoped no adults would hear us. It was usually the misses that loved thier students the most, or so it seemed. The married teachers had their own children to go home and love when the school day was over.

I guess Ms wasn't an option for school marms to use in the early sixties when I attended grade school. Come to think of it, I never had a Ms for a teacher even in my high school classes. Was it a feminist movement to adopt the usage of Ms? Probably. Adopting Ms freed a woman, giving her a different choice. A so-called "Ms" could be an unmarried woman, a divorced woman, or a married woman choosing not to be aligned too significantly to her husband.

Personally, I think labels can box in our personalities, and should be used minimally.

In any case I'd like to end this post in tribute to the teaching women who impressed a young girl in their own special ways.

First Grade: Mrs. Geneva Walworth, who I suspect may have had a mild case of OCD. She taught us to clean up our messes at the end of each school day. She wrote on my report card that was sent home to my parents that I acted immature in her class. Hey! I was only five years old! AND, I was shy. (1960-1961)

Second Grade: Miss Evelyn Wiegel (pronounced wiggle), a tall and pretty woman (I wonder if she really was that tall, or only seemed to be from a small child's perspective). She understood that children learned things differently and was okay with taking time with each student individually if needed. She loved the space program and introduced the name, John Glenn, into our young vocabularies. She told me that I was a nice little girl. I was! (1961-1962)

Third Grade: Mrs. Frances Ostrom, a middle aged woman with graying hair. Her laughter boomed louder that anyone I had ever heard before. I suspected that was why our classroom was positioned in the basement in order to buffer her boisterous outbursts. She didn't necessarily have good control over students' shennanigans in the classroom. She was fun to be around. I don't remember her all that well actually. But I do recall a sneaky kiss that was planted on my neck near my ear in the cloakroom by a boy named Larry. (1962-1963)

Fourth Grade: Miss Wahnita Pinkerton, I don't think I ever saw her wear pink. Music was her passion. We had a piano in our classroom that she often played for us. I'm not sure how she handled having a tone-deaf student like me under her care. She required each of us to sing a solo in front of the class. I sang "I've Been Working On The Railroad." What a nightmare. Miss Pinkerton cried the day JFK died, and we children did too. (1963-1964)

Fifth Grade: Mrs. Margaret Neldner, compassionate, but aloof most of the time. I suspect she may have been an empath who guarded her boundaries carefully. It was difficult to read her. I felt invisible in her classroom most days. But, when my cat died that year, I remember her giving me the warmest hug ever. I needed that!(1964-1965)

Sixth Grade: Miss Helen Wasson, the fattest teacher I ever had, and not the jolliest either. But I don't mean that in a bad way. Miss Wasson loved her students fiercely, much like a lioness protects her cubs. She was my all-time-favorite teacher, even with all her flaws. I loved her because she wasn't afraid to show her vulnerabilites. Was she too possessive? Probably. But for a student facing a scary time -adolescence- having a defender like Miss Wasson to help keep a flighty girl grounded was a God send. She once told me I was a good dancer (square dancing... laugh). She also once told me not to act so uppity. She only had to tell me that once. (1965-1966)

And a special tribute goes to Mrs. Modine, my speech therapist from grades 1st through 3rd. She loved the color purple. She drove a purple car, rode a purple bicycle, wore purple framed eyeglasses, and graded our homework papers with purple ink from her Lindy pens. She taught me how to pronounce my R's and L's correctly. I still remember the day I could finally say "refrigerator" without pause (four r's in refrigerator!) and it was a small miracle when I could say "walk with my legs" instead of "wok with my eggs." Her teaching style was very life affirming. (1960-1962)