Wednesday, January 26, 2011

An Apple for the Teacher

My hubby and I were talking last night about teachers of different kinds and he asked me if there was a teacher that stood out as someone who opened new vistas for me, who was gentle, who challenged me to keep learning.

I've had a lot of teachers in my life, most of them middle-aged (which of course at the time I considered to be "old".) They all made an impact on me, most of them for the good. But the first face that crossed my mind was a young one.  Her name was Penelope Mott and she taught me in grade six.  She was revolutionary in 1971, just graduated from teacher's college, no more than 25 years old.  She had a book table at the back of the room, the first I'd ever seen.  She exposed us to all kinds of things, even the stories of the classical Greek era - including the failings and foibles of the Greek deities.  But what stands out for me is that she turned spelling into a fun way to increase our vocabularies ... by getting us to participate in what words to learn to spell.  Each of us was to go to the bank of dictionaries on the shelf every Friday after our spelling test.  We were to find three words in the dictionary that we didn't know, and write them on the board.  The next half-hour we spent copying down ALL the words and looking up their meanings. And the spelling tests worked this way:  she would say the meaning of a word, and we had to know what that word was and write it down.  It soon became a point of honor as to who could pick the hardest word.  That was where I learned to spell the name of a country that no longer exists as such: Czechoslovakia.  (And no, spell-check didn't kick in there!)   :D

The very next year was my first year in junior high.  I was blessed to have as my teacher a grand old lady named Mrs. Beale.  Many made fun of her - called her Granny Beale - since she was well over 65 years old.  But her passion for the students, her love for passing on knowledge, and her amazing dedication to excellence (in learning, in her appearance, in her moral standards) was so contagious... it made a lasting impression on me.  

She was the last hold-out in our community for teaching from the Bible in the schools.  Others had long since given it up.  She disguised her reading to us out of the book of Exodus as giving us a 'history lesson on the origin of the Jewish people.' What a gutsy lady!! 

I remember looking forward to hearing her voice, expressively narrating the birth of Moses, the experience at the burning bush, and the delivery of the Israelite slaves from Pharaoh and his armies.  My heart thrilled to the provision of food, water, and guidance as the people went through the desert experience.  And as she continued reading I could picture the old man Moses going up into the mountain to view the promised land - knowing that the people would finally enter it after a generation of wandering.

Many years later, I saw her attending the fireworks in Charlottetown with her sister and long-time traveling companion.  I made my way over to her and thanked her - she would have been about 90 - for the impact that she made in my life.  She was so very pleased to know she was remembered.  As if I could forget!!

No, I could not.  I can still hear that voice of hers, with a bit of a quaver in it from age - raptly reading the words of a story she knew so well from a Book she obviously loved.  

These are two out of many teachers that have made a difference in my life.  I could name so many others including some of the pastors I have been blessed to have.  One of them is my own current pastor. 

To all the ones that have touched me, inspired me, given me hope, shown me the promise of better things, and passed on to me their love for learning, for writing, for reading - I bring an apple of gratitude, polished and juicy and sweet, for them to savor at the end of their day.  

May God richly bless you - wherever you are.  

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