Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ode to Mrs. B.

This isn't really an ode, because an ode is a poetry style. Since I'm more into prose than poetry, I will not be writing an ode. But it seemed a proper title for a tribute to Mrs. B. That's what we called her. She was my favorite teacher EVER.

I have had many good teachers. I loved school. Many of them I remember clearly. But my fond memories of Mrs. B. rise above them all.

We were living in the Twin Cities area for two years, attending a very large school. I had great teachers there. I didn't really fit in socially, so I worked very hard in my classes and excelled academically instead. I didn't like biology, but for some reason I was going to be my biology teacher's assistant the next year. This meant I would type his tests and grade them, and grade homework as well. I was excited about this opportunity. It made me feel important.

That summer, Dad accepted a call to a church in Nebraska. I was always adventurous and ready to move. Especially this time, for reasons too long to go into at this time. We moved to Omaha, but quickly discovered that we had missed the huge school boundary line by one block. We would be taking the bus to a small town outside of Omaha, and it was a very small town school. I rather looked down my nose at this idea. I discovered that I had really been looking forward to the academic advantages of the big school in Minnesota.

The first day of school arrived. I discovered that I had a grand total of 82 people in my new junior class. I was in Mrs. B's English class. That very first day of class, Mrs. B told us she was the adviser of the school newspaper and needed a junior to "groom for the editorship" the next year. Hmmm, I said to myself. That sounds like fun. For some reason, I raised my hand. One other girl raised her hand as well. I knew I would never get the job, because I was the new kid and everyone else had been together since kindergarten, it seemed. She looked at the two of us and asked us to talk to her after class. Imagine my surprise when she offered to let us co-edit the paper the next year, and be members of the staff this year. I jumped at the chance.

At dinner that night, I was telling my exciting news. My dad said, "So, which would you rather be - a big fish in a little pond, or a little fish in a big pond?" Interesting thought!

I had Mrs. B. in English for two years and also for journalism. My co-editor became my best friend. We had the greatest time interviewing the poet laureate of Nebraska, Mari Sandos; going to a Goldwater rally where Ronald Reagan spoke; holding a mock election. We even went downtown Omaha to try to get an interview with Richard Nixon - and succeeded! I have the autograph to prove it. That is another whole story!

But Mrs. B. also taught us to love good literature. We read Shakespeare, Canterbury Tales, Silas Marner, and many other classics. We did major projects which made them come alive. She taught us to look at the world with different eyes and write what we saw. My confidence grew. She was the kind of teacher that you visited on vacations from college to tell her how well she had prepared you for the future.

We thought Mrs. B. was old. She and I reconnected years later and kept in touch with Christmas letters. When I went to my 30th reunion, two friends and I went to visit her. We had a delightful visit, and it really brought us up short when we realized that at the time she taught us, she was the age we had now become!

Last year I went for my 40th reunion. My good friend and I were able to locate her once again, this time in a nursing home. She was now blind. How sad for someone who loved nothing more than to read books and to write letters. She didn't enjoy books on tape. It was amazing, though. We felt like she could see into our souls as we visited with her that day.

I found out yesterday that Mrs. B. died last week. She was 88. I am so thankful that I kept that connection and visited with her one more time. Never wait until it's too late if you have the inclination that you need to contact someone.

*TOTALLY UNRELATED ADDENDUM: Kristen from is trying to get 125 comments on her 125th post. Please help her reach this goal. Thanks!


MugwumpMom said...

A very nice tribute. I love the way you weave your memories. She sounds like she was an excellent teacher..and am interested in hearing that attempt to interview Nixon story some day

theresa said...

Great post, I'd love to hear about the Nixon interview too.

Kathleen Marie said...

What a wonderful lady Mrs. B. was and how fortunate you were to have known her. This is a beautiful tribute. If she has children you should mail them a copy of this. I am sure they will treasure it.

Nikkie said...

Thats great that you were able to keep in touch with her like that! It was a very nice tribute!

Kristen said...

I didn't know she died. Amazing how I find things out from you on various websites despite the fact we live 3 doors down.

That was a very nice tribute to Mrs. B. Makes me want to go find Mr. B! Both of our favorite teachers ever were our English teachers. Interesting. (Of course, then there was Mrs. C!)

At least she lived a long, healthy and apparently happy life, and made a difference in others' lives.

Kathleen Marie said...

I was in Wayne, NE. My Dad got a teaching job at Wayne State College, which is where I graduated from as well. It is really a nice little college town. Of course I didn't appreciate it until I grew up, moved away and came back. I still to this day like larger cities although I find myself in South Dakota with the largest city being Rapid City. But, I go where my hubby goes. Thank you again!

Lala's world said...

what a great tribute!

thanks for the comments on my blog helping me to reach my goal!

Pamela said...

What a wonderful heart touching story. It just goes to show how linked we really are and what power we have when we touch another's life.

Glad you were able to stay in touch and see her one last time...and I'm am sorry for your loss. Mrs B sounded like she was a true kindred spirit, as well. :)

PEA said...

You've written Mrs. B such a very touching's wonderful that you were able to stay in contact with her throughout the years. We do tend to put off seeing some people and then it's too late...good advice on your part!! Hugs!

Linda said...

Oh Dawn, I love that story. She sounds like a wonderful person. You were so blessed to have her in your life and so wise to keep in touch with her. She would have loved reading your post.

Barb said...

My word! You got an awful lot of great experiences out of that editor's job.

I had a few teachers like Mrs. B. They make such a huge impact on your future, I think it's wonderful to stay in touch with them and let them know they mattered so much.

Running over to add to that goal of 125 comments now.

Diane said...

I visited and left Kristin a comment. She had almost 50 when I was there earlier. :-)

Have a great weekend, Dawn. ;D

theresa said...

I love the new look!

Grafted Branch said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Grafted Branch said...

Such a lovely tribute. I'm sad to learn that such an inspirational woman is not here anymore.

Isn't that something to ponder? That we are but a vapor and so much of what we were able to offer others goes with us at our death?

Except for that which lives family and friends and students -- like you.

Lyric said...

A wonderful read. And thanks for dropping by my blog and leaving such an encouraging word. Hope you'll visit again!