Yesterday, my friend Baddest Mother Ever asked the question, “Who was your favorite teacher and why?”
I started to respond, but then my mind ran around and around in circles. Whom would I choose? I mean, really–ONE? I’m the girl who always made my Daddy laugh by giving him 2 or 3 cards on Father’s Day and birthdays because I could never choose just ONE.
I started thinking through them. Those who were not in the running were painfully obvious. Moving on…..
My favorite? Favorites? My very first teacher, Mrs. Partain? The one who gave me a “B” in conduct the second six weeks because I only quit talking when she asked me to–for a few minutes anyway. The same one who laughed when I finally told her what Daddy had been saying all year–that he wasn’t old enough to have a daughter in the first grade? Or Mrs. Crouch? She and Mama became such good friends that Mess Cat was the flower girl in her daughter’s wedding. What about Mrs. Turner in third grade? The one who read aloud “Charlotte’s Web” in the dark during quiet time and knew I was crying with my head folded down on my desk. She’s also the one who let me sit next to her chair on the playground as she taught me to crochet. What a gift that was. There were many other good ones in elementary and junior high. I dearly loved Mrs. Scott who had gone to school with Aunt and my Uncle. Such a sweet spirit. Mrs. Watson was an awesome pre-algebra teacher. Turned out she’d been teaching us Algebra 1 all along, so ninth grade was a breeze. And speaking of math, there was Miss Bell.
*moment of silence here please*
She was just that good. She taught my Daddy and his siblings and my siblings and cousins after me. I had her for three years, and I loved her. From the beginning perhaps it was only because of that link to the past. But she was an awesome teacher who commanded the classroom in her quiet way. You did your homework or you wiggled through the whole class because she KNEW. I don’t know how, but she did. One time a classmate who hadn’t done his assignment was asked what answer he got for an algebra problem. He tossed something out there. Standing next to his desk, she looked down at him and raised her glasses as she did and said her signature line, “Do wha-uut?” Before she could say her next line, “Go to the board” (oh the fear that could put into you–working the problem in front of the whole class and HER), he looked up and said, pointing at the board in the front of the room, “Well Miss Bell if you go up to the board, I can tell you what I did to get it.” He was buying time and she knew it. She called his full name–“I can walk faster than you can think.” Ha. That was classic. She knew how to laugh when things were funny, and she cared that you learned it. That was it. She wanted to impart knowledge. I loved her dearly.
But was she my favorite? Close. But no. I don’t think so.
My favorite teacher is one I never had a class with. I never sat and called her by the name that she went by then. I knew her many years later, when I was grown, sitting a few pews over from her in church. I recognized her name, and she asked me if I was his daughter. I beamed. “Yes ma’am. Yes I am.”
She was my Daddy’s third grade teacher. Miss Ann.
Daddy didn’t care much for school before that. He didn’t apply himself. He told me this. My Daddy used to say to us children we couldn’t complain about anything, because at least we weren’t hoeing cotton. I think he did a lot of that. Shoes weren’t a given year round for him. He came from hard-working, good people. But school? It just wasn’t for him.
Until that year. Miss Ann saw something in him and brought it out. She asked him to clean the chalkboard, dust the erasers. She encouraged him. He learned to love learning. He became enraptured with words and knowledge and books and writing. He once told me she changed his life.
And bless her, she changed so many after that, simply because she took time with one little boy whom she thought could do better.
He passed on his love of reading to his little sister with a trip to the used bookstore, who later took a little girl in the third grade to her very first used book sale. That little sister loves books to this day, as does that little girl, whose library overfloweth. (literally) He held us all to high standards in the field of learning. There might be things we couldn’t do, but we could apply ourselves and try our best, and that’s what he expected of all of us. From his oldest child to his youngest grandchild. He knew an education was something that couldn’t be taken away from us by anyone.
When my old life fell apart, he sat me down and encouraged me to get my Master’s, “so you can take care of you and that baby.” And he was right. He made that possible because he believed in education. And the power it has to make lives better. He was a lifelong learner, constantly reading books that imparted knowledge–about all kinds of things from quantum physics to theology to children’s books that he held in highest regard.
All because of Miss Ann.
We, each one of us, have the power to change lives like that. It’s a bit scary, isn’t it? I don’t know if Miss Ann ever realized what she did, but I know. And the best way I can thank her is by doing what my Daddy did–pass it on–this love of learning, this encouraging someone to be their very best. Listening, sharing, letting curiosity grow. And being present. It all comes back to #bethefeather, it seems, doesn’t it? Being kind, caring about another, taking care of those around us……doing unto others, as Mama was always preaching.
Do me a favor. Please. If you get the chance to encourage someone tomorrow or the next day or next month, will you take a moment and do so? You don’t have to be in charge of a classroom to do it. In honor of a great teacher, Miss Ann, and all those teachers who step outside the box and change a child’s life and the lives of future generations all down the line, let’s make a difference by caring. And doing.
Thanks. That is huge. Love to all.