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 http://kristenssocalledlife.blogspot.com/ is trying to get 125 comments on her 125th post. Please help her reach this goal. Thanks!