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Standing in the Shadows
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THANK A TEACHER
10 February 2017
Ned's sister-in-law Lindsay, a teacher, wrote this on Facebook: This week I've gotten a little bit of a pat on the back that helps bolster my resolve to carry on this important task. Several of my parents have sent me emails like "thank you for always being there for us" and "you go above and beyond for our student" and it feels good. Not gonna lie. It feels real good.
In response, our friend Suellyn (we met on a Viking cruise to Russia) wrote In thanks for the public education that I received, and in support of all those who teach in public schools .... and then listed a lot of her teachers. Someone else said she could remember every one of her teachers. I thought I'd travel back and see what I think about my teachers.
I don't remember the name of my kindergarten teacher, but I remember that I started school late...actually a year early. I was so upset that my friend Stephen was going to school and I was not that they let me go into kindergarten early, and then I did so well, I was allowed to pass on to first grade with my class. Remember Sister complimenting me on my curls, and I remember the big playhouse in the classroom. That's all I remember of kindergarten!
In first grade I had Sister Mary St. Patrice and I don't remember a lot about her except that I have been grateful my whole life for her letting me write with my left and not forcing me to switch to the right hand. I also remember learning to raise one finger if I had to pee and 2 fingers if things were going to be more serious!
Sister Mary Humbeline had second grade. I remember her as being very pale and very thin. Also very sweet. We had a May Crown celebration each may where one child was chosen to crown a statue of Mary and others were chosen to be various members of the court. I remember that she passed around a box and you picked out a folded piece of paper She said that if something was written on it, we should bring it to her and she would read it for her. But I had no trouble reading "queen" on my slip of paper! I was the one who got to place the crown on Mary's head.
Sister Mary Bernardone was our teacher for both third and fifth grade. She is still alive, in her 90s an I spoke with her on the phone a couple of months ago. She was probably my favorite grammar school teacher, though I can't remember why now.
Sister Mary John Ett taught 4th grade. I started having problems with math in this class. For fun, sister had a stamp collection and we got to go through her stamps now and then. I still feel guilty for stealing one that I particularly liked. It was also Sister Mary John Ett who accused me of being a hypocrite in front of the whole class when she felt I had done something (which I had not...I had done other things but not that thing). I didn't like her much.
On the other hand, Sister Mary Johnetta was a fun teacher who taught us in sixth grade. I once confused her and John Ett on line and to my amazement I received an angry letter from her setting me straight. She never answered my letter of apology.
I can't remember who we had for 7th and 8th grade. But the teachers who had the biggest impact on my life were those I met in high school. Sister Louise was my freshman homeroom teacher and I was thrilled to be able to have lunch with her at our 50th class reunion back in 2010. She and Sister Anne, my typing teacher and best friend until her death in about 1995 were good friends.
Sister Benedicta was homeroom for sophomore year. She also taught me Latin and algebra. Or rather she tried to teach me algebra. I was a terrible student. She even took me for algebra 2 as a private student since I needed the class to get into college and my small school didn't offer it. To this day I don't know what a logarithm is. But she was fun, this little round older lady who could easily distracted. If you asked her a question on something off the subject she would go on and on about that subject until the class was over I think she eventually wised up to what we were doing and didn't let us get away with it. But I got a solid foundation in Latin, which still helps me today, especially in Jeopardy.
Sister Mary William perhaps had the one of the biggest impacts on my life. I don't think she was a homeroom teacher but she led the choir (to which I belonged) and she was the yearbook advisor. At the end of my freshman year, she invited me to join the yearbook staff and I worked my way up to Editor in my senior year, learning a lot about writing and layout (and deadlines!). I always wanted to stay in contact with her, but she never answered any of my letters. She was the first teacher to whom I wrote a "thank you for being one of my more memorable teachers" letters.
Sister Mary Bernardone was the home ec teacher and I took a sewing class from her. She was a gargantuan woman who joked that she checked the obituaries every morning to see if she was still alive. She helped me make a dress and was very excited about how it was turning out until I screwed it up and then I think she was more disappointed than I was. I wore it once for the fashion show and then never again.
Sister Colette was the biology teacher who was embarrassed by anything having to do with reproduction, so just skipped those chapters. She was not cut out to be a teacher and should have been a nurse. She taught us so poorly that anyone who wanted to go to college had to re-take biology the next year, taught by a different teacher.
It was rare for me to have a non-Sister teacher, but Mary Gavin was my French teacher for two years. Strange woman, with bleach blonde marcelled hair, but she taught me to speak French and I loved her class. She and I also shared a love of diagramming sentences (she was also my English teacher for a semester). Years later, I had news of her death and the obituary said that she and her son died together and hinted that it might have been a murder-suicide. Or maybe it was an auto accident. in any event, it was a tragedy. She had lost a son in the war and had written an emotional piece which we performed for a speech competition. I had the lead role and my line, which I repeated over and over again was "Why? Why MY son?" Didn't realize at the time how that question would be appropriate for ME as well.
Sister Zoe. Ahhh...Sister Zoe. We were all terrified of her. She was my homeroom teacher for my senior year and it seemed we were always at odds. My whole opinion of her changed when I learned that the yearbooks were going to be late. I had had zero help from anybody except my friend Anne, and the two of us were pretty much doing the whole thing by ourselves. I was standing outside the classroom when I heard Zoe giving the bad news to my classmates and their angry reaction...and then the wonderful scolding she gave them, standing up for me. I get teary-eyed today thinking about it. Anne and I ended up hand delivering every Senior yearbook after graduation...sixty different students.
of course there was Sister Anne, my typing teacher, who changed my life.
Because of her I almost entered the convent and because of her I decided
not to enter the convent. We kept in contact by letter wherever
she was in the country and Jeri's middle name is Anne after her (though Walt
insists it's after me). When she was sent to the Daughter of
Charity retirement community in Evanston, Indiana, she drove to St. Louis,
where I was attending a meeting, so she could give me a tour of St. Louis
and then take me back to the mother house to spend the week end. Turned out
she was the brewer for the convent and it was very strange sitting in the
living room of the guest house drinking beer with her! I sent her a
VHS tape showing her our house and the kids and dogs and it was one of the
best things I did because she responded with her own videotape, which I
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Front: Zoe, Benedicta, Rosalie
(the principal), Bernardone, Agnes (she replaced Louise)
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