Tuesday, May 8, 2012

This Teacher, __________, Made a Difference in My Life! Celebrate National Teacher Day 2012

We have probably all had a teacher, or several, that have influenced our lives. In honor of National Teacher’s Day, I thought it was time to let a teacher know that they have made a difference in my life (Which name would you fill in the blank with?)
Painting by R. Caton Woodville (the 17th Lancers in the
Charge of the Light Brigade. This was an incident that
occurred during the battle of Balaklava on 25 October 1854.

For me, Nancy Rainey is the teacher that I would add to the fill-in-the-blank in the title. I have a few others that are worthy and should be there as well, but Mrs. Rainey would have to be first. She was my teacher in 1st and 2nd grade and her passion for education inspired everyone in the class. Class seemed chaotic at times as everyone read aloud (all at the same time) and you could find us at our desk or lying down in the corner, but we were always busy and eager to learn. It wasn’t uncommon for us to write 50 page stories (wide-ruled paper of course) or longer and then go from classroom to classroom sharing our stories and then to have them prominently displayed in our classroom. Did I mention reading? We read and read at school and at home (yes, some of us even read by flashlight after we were sent to bed). I can’t imagine many things she kept off limits from us, except for the books sitting atop her storage closet in the classroom.

There resided the best books. The ones we could read after we completed every other assignment and also the ones we could occasionally take home. Maybe we didn’t fully understand what we were reading when we read these “special” books, but Mrs. Rainey knew how to reel a young student in. Alfred, Lord Tennyson was one of the authors that I requested the most from the top shelf. His “Charge of the Light Brigade” always intrigued me although it seemed tragic and sad. I realize now, of course, that I didn’t fully understand the entire meaning of the poem, but nonetheless, I read it time after time. Looking back, it seems weird that I was introduced to Thoreau, Emerson, Tennyson, and others in 1st and 2nd grade, but it also meant that I didn’t think poetry was boring or strange as I got older. All forms of literature could actually be a cool thing. Other badges of merit from Mrs. Rainey included the opportunity to stay after school (yes, most of us wanted that to happen…), a ride to our home in her Volkswagen Bug, an occasional dinner at Dairy Queen with her, and the ultimate was when you showed up at home with red lipstick marks on your forehead. Kind of embarrassing for a boy, but it also let your classmates know how excited she was with something “you” had done.

I still admire her ability and knowledge to find each of our interests and what makes us “tick.” Her commitment from day one was to be our teacher for life. She attended my wedding some 25 years later and she has attended numerous graduations and events of many former students. There were two students, a brother and sister that everyone had given up on, but she refused and took them into her classroom and also tutored them at home. Flash forward to the future when one of these students graduated from Stanford Medical School and the other from Georgetown Law School on the same day. Never much of one for an airplane, Mrs. Rainey took a bus after flipping a coin and attended the Georgetown graduation.

Over 40 years later, many of us still occasionally visit Mrs. Rainey and for a moment we remember those early years when she squeals in excitement, grabs you, and you're once again left with red lipstick marks on your face.

Like I said…. our teacher for life.

1 comment:

  1. It would be a toss up between Mrs. Stevens, 3rd grade and Mrs. Duffy, 6th grade.
    Mrs. Stevens was a short woman not much taller than her students. She would laugh, listen, and was quick with hugs and praises. She was the first teacher that made me feel as if I was valued as a student. Mrs. Duffy was tall with red long fingernails, perfect hair, and beautiful clothes. A woman of elegant stature and grace. She allowed us to write and perform plays until our creative minds could produce no longer, in other words, we had plays all year. I will never forget her standing at the window in that old 3 story school house, speechless, tears on her cheek. All of us sitting quietly in our seats for what seemed like an eternity. In her kind elegant way she was trying to figure out how she could tell us about the death of President Kennedy. A task that deserved all the power words can instill in a young heart.
    I have had many teachers, many mentors, many friends who have guided my educational life. However,these two women always come first in my cobweb filled memories. I can see them on the playground of a building that no longer stands. I can hear their voices as if they are whispering in my ear even now. I don't remember any subject or specific topic of study, just their presence. I wonder what they would think if they knew that skinny, quiet, shy little girl followed their footsteps into education.
    I wish I could tell these two wonderful women how much I appreciate the impact they had on my life. They modeled my future. It's too late, they are both gone now. I waited too long to say thank you.


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