Empowerment through Language...

Monday, December 08, 2014

Teachers Leave Lasting Impressions

Miss Mt. Pleasant. Even her name was magic. Soothing. Safe. Something about the idea of a mountain of pleasant, of being a resident of that mountain was captivating for me. I loved my 2nd grade teacher very much. It was a new school, having moved to the east side in October, transferred into a new neighborhood, social structure, new friendships to forge, new territory to cross.

My journey to school had been two city blocks since kindergarten. Now it was 1.5 miles. Miss Mt. Pleasant, whose face I can barely imagine anymore, was welcoming and showed the smile of encouragement. It was the year of oral polio vaccinations at school, the introduction to Brownies, the first year of school fluoride treatments and hearing tests, the year of school savings accounts and little orange milk containers to collect change for Unicef as we trick-or-treated to help children less fortunate than ourselves. Everything was new. Everything was discovery. The first year of my family's own home, liberated from the apartment we had outgrown. The year before I started writing.

Miss Mt. Pleasant probably fueled that urge. Every day after lunch, when we returned from the playground or cafeteria if weather was dreadful, we started our afternoon's work with story time. Miss Mt. Pleasant opened to the next chapter of the book we were experiencing and filled us in on what happened next. She started with Charlotte's Web. She read Stuart Little. She read several other "classic" children's chapter books, one chapter per day, opening whole worlds to us of magical animals and puzzling circumstances. This is how I knew I wanted to be a reader - being a listener first.

One day, when it was dark early, I had to stay after school to write I will not talk in class  on the board 100 times in dusty white chalk. I don't remember what our how this came about exactly but I paid my penance. I was more concerned with the fact that I had disappointed my dear teacher, my school mommy, and that it had grown to be night outside by the time I finished.

At the end of the year, Miss Mt. Pleasant announced that she was not returning to Ed Smith in the fall. She was getting married. I was crestfallen. Knowing that I would not see her in the hall was crushing. The fact that she would become a Mrs. seemed like every girl's dream but, for me, it was sadness. She would no longer be She Who Dwells in the Pleasant Mountain. She would abandon her name, her identity, everything was subject to change in the act of marriage. Already, I understood that. 

And I knew I would miss her, I would endure another of a long stream of losses. But the books would always be waiting on the library shelf. The sound of the words would ever echo her voice from behind the heavy oak desk in front of the window that opened to Lancaster Avenue and the blue sky beyond. 

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