Looking back on our school days we remember school teachers for different reasons. My math teacher, Miss R., loved dogs and owned several Schnauzers. Mr. S., had his backside blown off in the war. And Mrs. B., was allergic to deodorant. Hot days with her were ad nauseum.
I abhorred school. I cried every day of kindergarten. First and second grade were detestable. Then I was assigned to Mrs. Green’s 3rd grade class.
My parents were both 40 yrs old at my conception and were quite surprised. My brother was already 17 and was Dad’s pride and joy. After birth my father barely acknowledged I existed. He left all parenting to my mother. She compensated for my father’s lack of interest by being doting and indulgent. I didn’t have to brush my teeth or take baths unless I wanted to. In my first grade school picture my two front teeth were black.
Third grade commenced and Mrs. Green noticed my cavities. She decided to teach about tooth decay. She brought in tiny red pills to chew. The chemical in the tablet stuck to our teeth where plaque had formed. Turned out I wasn’t the only little monster needing help with dental hygiene. Now I brush several times a day, always floss, and use various rinses. Okay….it turned into obsessive compulsive disorder but she would be proud.
Mrs. Green instructed us on penmanship, posture, patriotism, and pronunciation. She even explained the best way to sleep at night to keep our spines straight.
One day in the spring she introduced us to classical poets like Whitman, Emerson, and Frost. For the first time I heard, “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree,” by Kilmer. The words took me far away from my little wooden desk at Bridgeway Elementary School.
I arrived under an old sycamore tree with reaching branches that traveled up to adore the sun. I marveled at the trunk that drank from the breast of the earth. I thrilled to hear songbirds singing from the nests in her hair. I was in awe of the mighty wonder of a single tree.
At home I decided to build a tree house in a giant flowering pear in our backyard. I would come home from school and climb high in the tree and read books. It was magical and my love of nature, reading, and writing began with Mrs. Green.
In college I decided to locate her and thank her. Mrs. Green had already passed. I found her house and it had green shutters. I smiled. “Rest in peace sweet teacher. Your work was not in vain. And I hear the voice of my teachers saying, this is the way, walk ye in it.”
I earned my degree in education and 40 years later I am still teaching. Striving to inspire just one student each day. Hoping to live on in a child as Mrs. Green abides in me.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.