As teachers prepare to return to work, and I’d like to remind them that their labors are not in vain.
Someday, maybe forty years from now, they will receive a thank you and/or apology from former students who have succeeded in life without serving time in jail or randomly texting photos of their private parts.
I attended 12 years of public school in the village of Wendell, Idaho, population 1,000, and some of my teachers also taught my parents at the same school a generation earlier. These teachers taught me the proper use of “your” and “you’re,” how to find the seven continents on a map, and what practical skills I needed to get good jobs. It was common sense education, and I’d like to thank them for their guidance and apologize for being so obnoxious.
I was that kid. The incorrigible class clown, the goofy girl making the most noise, and the jolly jester singing during exams.
Instead of putting me on medication (thank you!), the teachers, including a frustrated Mrs. Petersen, regularly sent me to the principal’s office where I told jokes until they begged me to return to class. We were graded on “Deportment” and a bad mark would keep a good student off of the published Honor Roll. I always earned honor grades but usually received an “F” in behavior. But, I was the school newsletter editor so I just returned my name to the list.
In fifth grade, Mrs. Gates always rapped on my desk because I was staring out of the window. I explained to her that I was daydreaming about imaginary adventures, so she told me to write short stories. As a published author, I’m grateful for that assignment. In sixth grade, Mrs. Dennis would shake her head at my antics before she sent me to her husband, the principal. Mr. Webster, my junior high band teacher, once shouted at me that I wasn’t funny. I retorted that really, I was! All the students laughed, just to prove me right.
My true heroes were my English teachers.
In junior high, Mrs. Coffman drilled me about how to conjugate a verb, spell correctly, and diagram a sentence. In high school, Miss Luke told me I was a good writer, and she explained poetry in terms of meter, rhythm, and iambic tetrameter. She advised me to read works by great storytellers including Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, and Agatha Christie. I adored Miss Luke and always wondered where she lived after Wendell.
Mrs. Lawton, the Home Economics teacher, started every class with a Bible reading. When the government changes the rules and such reverent behavior was proclaimed offensive, she began every session with a cooking lesson based on stories from the Old or New Testament. Now she freely shares milk and honey at a divine banquet.
To these and other memorable teachers, I say a hearty thank you for all that I learned from your instructions, advice, and example. And to all of those I irritated, I humbly apologize. Finally, to Mr. Webster wherever you are: I’m still funny!