Welcome to the . . .
“If you have to put someone on a pedestal, put teachers. They are society’s heroes.”
— Guy Kawasaki
This month, the Museum of Me is featuring exhibits about our unsung heroes . . . those influential people in the world who’ve likely never received the credit they are due. This was a hard prompt for me (and I thank Bonny for suggesting a challenging one), as I’ve really not thought about this topic at all before. But, eventually, it came to me: my unsung heroes happen to be . . . teachers!
I’ve always felt that teachers don’t get the credit they deserve, and especially in today’s (ahem) . . . climate of distrust. So my exhibit this month pays tribute to seven of the most influential teachers during my school “career.” Each of these seven teachers taught me important lessons I continue to think of and apply regularly in my life . . . even now . . . so many decades after I left their classrooms. Each of them (well, almost each of them) is an unsung hero . . . to me.
Let’s start here. With Mrs. Boline . . . in second grade.
(Can you find me?) (And . . . I can name each of my classmates – often first and last names – in this photo, with 2 exceptions. I’m amazed by this.)
We’ll begin with Mrs. Boline, my second grade teacher. Mrs. Boline was one of those wonderful teachers who adored her students and loved teaching. And we all loved her in return! Mrs. Boline ran a tight ship (as second grade teachers must), but always had time for a little fun — and a hug when we needed one. She taught me to work hard, to be kind to everyone, to be neat in my work, and that it was good to get up and “shake your sillies out” now and then. All of those things? I’m still doing them, Mrs. Boline! (Thank you.)
Then, there was Mrs. Hermann, my third grade teacher. Mrs. Hermann worked hard to create a comfortable, engaging classroom for us (back in the days before that kind of thing was “done”) with highly creative bulletin boards and imaginative classroom displays. She added flair to all of her lessons. We did a lot of in-class skits and plays — sometimes with costumes. We created elaborate dioramas together. She had the very best crafty projects. And (here’s the Best Thing) . . . she introduced us to poetry! Not just in a limited “poetry unit” kind of way . . . but as something woven into every single school day. She unlocked poetry for us and made it magical. I thank Mrs. Hermann every time I pick up a book of poetry or read a poem! (And I still have “Dirty Dinky” memorized, Mrs. Hermann!)
When I started sixth grade, I went to middle school and had a team of four teachers (this was for most of the year; toward the end of 6th grade my family moved to Wyoming and I had to go back to elementary school). Miss Heinisch was my English teacher. I remember being surprised that I was going to have a class called “English” in middle school . . . because in elementary school we’d had Language Arts (which was pretty much grammar and writing) and Reading, but never “English.” When I realized that “English” was going to combine the two – Language Arts and Reading – I was thrilled. Anyway, I loved Miss Heinisch. She was young and cool and groovy. She shared her love of classic literature AND made diagramming sentences fun (really). She introduced us to Greek myths, and turned me into a lifelong fan! (I’d love to discuss Madeline Miller’s books with you, Miss Heinisch.)
Mr. Beville was my junior high school band director. I didn’t like him much. He was old and crotchety — and unpredictable. I was in the “top band” — and he delighted in putting us on the spot, embarrassing us if we were unprepared for class. He unnerved us by randomly holding unannounced challenges for chair positions . . . during class, in front of everyone. It was torture. We could never relax, because we never knew when it was coming. I think he was perpetually tired and grumpy, actually, but he did make us sound really good. And he taught me that if I practiced and was prepared, I’d be okay. And I was. And that’s a good lesson to carry through life. (I never did lose my second chair position.) (Couldn’t quite crack into that first chair spot, though. . . ) He taught me that earning a spot in the “top band” was just the first step — that I had to work hard and keep practicing if I wanted to stay there. Again, an important lesson to learn. I think about you, Mr. Beville, way more often than I expected to (because I certainly never expected to).
Miss Helser was my home ec teacher in seventh and eighth grade, and she taught me pretty much everything I know about sewing construction and finishing techniques. She was a stickler, that’s for sure! She had a way of looking at us with a lifted eyebrow . . . and we knew we were not quite performing up to her (very high) standards with the needle. She had a big embroidered sampler hanging on her classroom wall: “So Shall You Sew, So Shall You Rip.” When we went to her with questions about a wonky seam or crooked zipper, she would lift that eyebrow and point a seam ripper in the direction of her sign. I was intimidated at first, but she could tell I loved sewing and she took some special interest in my efforts. She encouraged me, challenged me to go further, gave me tips that I remember and still employ to this day. Whenever I press my seams as I sew (always, of course) – or grab a seam ripper, I say thank you for your eyebrow-raising-attention-to-detail, Miss Helser.
Then . . . there was Mr. Weinstein. My ninth grade geometry teacher. Mr. Weinstein definitely doesn’t qualify as an unsung hero. He was a horrible teacher. Tight and mean and stingy with help and explanations. Probably the worst teacher I ever had. I don’t think he enjoyed spending time with junior high students at all, and I really . . . didn’t like him much either. He made me hate geometry, too. Why is he on my list then, you ask? Well. Because he showed me that some people really ARE assholes. Full stop. And that’s good to know, too. (Okay. So he’s no unsung hero. But he’s now a “sung” asshole.)
In high school, one of my teachers stood out from the rest: Mrs. Millstead, my senior year World Literature teacher. (I was lucky to have her as a teacher just before she retired.) Oh, Mrs. Millstead . . . she was another teacher who absolutely inspired! She taught me to love the Greek tragedies. And Shakespeare. And Charles Dickens. She taught me to write excellent essays and papers, to think critically about what I read, and to express my thoughts about literature with confidence. She ran her classroom discussions using the Socratic method, which felt so . . . high brow . . . at the time. Everytime I pick up one of the classics (or write a book review), I give my special thanks to you, Mrs. Millstead.
“I am not a teacher, but an awakener.”
— Robert Frost
Some of my teachers (but not all of them) really are my unsung heroes. The best of them (and, yes, some of the worst) continue to shape and influence me . . . decades later. I’d call them all . . . awakeners!
Thanks for visiting the Museum of Me. Watch for new exhibits . . . on the 2nd Friday of each month. (For now, that link will still send you back over to Stepping Away From the Edge. Eventually, I’ll be relocating the entire Museum of Me here to the new blog, but I haven’t managed that yet.)
If you’re a blogger and you’d like to create a Museum of Me along with me on your own blog, let me know. I’ll send you my “exhibit schedule” (a list of monthly prompts) and we can tell our stories together