KEEPERS OF THE KEYS[No pictures today--my computer is experiencing technical problems. So you can imagine your own schoolhouse photos.]
Today is September 3rd. In my young years, I would have been in school two days already, beginning the first weekday in September. This would be a short week, and so would next week, with Labor Day off.
Another generation of my family is off to school, some starting in mid-August. I’ve had news and photos of my great-grandchildren—in a Read-A-Thon, tested for advanced placement, waving good-bye with their backpacks in place.
This time of year I envy anyone going off to school. My memories are mostly happy ones—and those happy memories were created by teachers who cared. Today I want to recall a few of them.
First Grade – Mrs. Nabb presided over eight grades at Clear Spring School, in rural Coles County, Illinois. I have little recollection of the other kids because I was utterly, entirely, and overwhelmingly in love with Mrs. Nabb and Books! Emotional memory says that school was just for me. The books were all mine to read. (I guess the other people were there to keep the place running.) In Mrs. Nabb’s care, I read first, second, and third grade books. Took some home to read and return. Did workbook pages. A truly heavenly year.
Fourth Grade – Miss Kincaid taught all subjects in that one room. Lincoln School was in town, first four grades on the lower floor, two fifth and two sixth grade rooms on the upper floor. Miss Kincaid will forever be my very first writing mentor; she read a book to us after lunch period to get us to settle down, and we got so taken up with the characters in one such book that she invited us to write our own stories using those same characters. I discovered writing was almost as sacred as reading.
High School, Junior Year – Mrs. Peterka, who had been my eighth grade teacher at the junior high, was now an English and French teacher at the high school. I found myself transported to another culture learning French. Bonjour! Comment t’allez-vous? Je vais bien, merci! Et vous? A few years later in college I took a couple more years of French, just to get my Bachelor of Arts degree, but guess what? Those couple of years ended up being four, with beaucoup reading in the 19th Century novelists (who couldn’t write a story in fewer than 400 small-print pages); so I ended up with a double major for my B.A.—English and French.
Indiana University – Dr. Sparapani, a recent addition to the faculty of the regional campus that year, taught Advanced Rhetoric. I know, it sounds grim beyond bearing. But it was really just advanced composition—and I’d already figured out I needed help, some kind of help, with writing papers for college classes. Dr. Sparapani endeared himself to me forever when he said, “You have great ideas. You just need to learn how to organize them.” And that’s what he taught us.
Purdue University – Mr. Hollander was my professor for many advanced courses. Not content with my Bachelor’s degree (actually, not ready to give up my status of perpetual student), I continued my studies for a Master’s. After the first year (took me three years to finish the one-year course, but there’s a good reason)—as I say, after the first year, I discovered it was possible to teach as a graduate assistant while also taking (fewer) classes. I applied and eventually was accepted. Mr. Hollander returned one exam with the comment, “You’ll be an excellent comp instructor.”
=====These five people are what I call Keeper of the Keys. Each one held the key to a part of my mind and heart. Each inspired confidence, made learning a joy, made me work hard, and through all that gave me a gift I can never repay. My role is to pass the love of learning along to someone else.
I did teach composition for about five years, but I had no interest in pursuing a Ph.D. so I wouldn’t have been able to teach more advanced courses at the college level. Eventually I needed to earn more income than was provided by part-time teaching, so I searched for and found a place to use my writing and analytical skills.
What I learned from my beloved teachers has expanded my life: reading, writing, learning another language all contribute to who I am and who I aspire to be.
During this new school year’s beginning, I celebrate all teachers. And I especially single out the five who gave me the keys to my life. They very likely never knew they did such a thing. They would say they were doing their job. But I know different.
-----Today’s post is the 100th since Thursday’s Child began in the fall of 2013. Thanks for coming by!