..A Favorite Teacher
It has been many years since I was in school - many, many years - but I still remember each and every one of my teachers. I had a 100% Lutheran education with 8 years at St. Peter's Lutheran School in East Detroit, MI followed by 4 years at Lutheran High School East in Harper Woods, MI. My high school has now been closed, the building demolished and today I read in the paper that Ford Auditorium in Detroit, where my high school graduation was held, is going to be demolished as well. There will be no physical reminders of my school days.
However, I do have memories of one special teacher. Actually most of my teachers were pretty good. I do specifically remember a rather unkind second grade teacher who scared me, but other than her, my teachers were decent.
But my third grade teacher was the best! I remember her well.
It was the summer preceding my entrance into third grade. It was the custom at St. Peter's in those days that the teachers visited each of their students the summer prior to the start of school. This was the day that I was expecting my third grade teacher to visit and I knew her name was Miss Margaret Johnson.
Early afternoon I was playing with my friends. We had strung a clothesline from the side door of my house, across the driveway and attached it to the neighbor's fence. We had all our little doll clothes hanging there to dry but quickly got tired of that project and decided to ride our bikes instead. But our bikes were in the garage and the clothesline was in the way.
My little brother got the idea that he would stand at the clothesline and hold it up so we could all ride our bikes under. He was only about 4 at the time. My friends all rode their bikes under the clothesline but I picked up my head too soon, the clothesline caught me at the neck and my bike fell into the side door, breaking the glass and cutting my face badly.
Blood was everywhere and my mother was panicked. I was screaming, sure I was dying and the neighbor lady came over and together they bandaged me up. What a sight I must have been for Miss Johnson when she visited later in the afternoon. But she was so sweet and sympathetic and I think I fell in love with her then.
By the time school started, her name had changed. She was now Mrs. Margaret B and had recently married. Third grade was going to be fun, I was sure. I can still remember my second floor classroom, how our seats were arranged and how kind, complimentary and patient a teacher she was.
Although I was the most sedate and quiet child there was, I had another incident during the school year. We were out on the playground and I was standing still, minding my own business when a boy student ran into me, knocked me over and I passed out. The next thing I knew I was waking up IN the classroom ON the second floor and all the students were sitting staring at me asking me "what is your name"? Mrs. B called my mother who came over, panicked and took me home. Mrs. B was so concerned and checked often on me before I returned to school but I suffered no lasting effects.
Later in the year, another girl student suffered a similar incident, suffered a concussion and was out of school even longer. My goodness, us little third grade girls were tough on poor Mrs. B.
At the end of the school year, Mrs. B was gone. I never knew why and the years went by. Over those years I learned that Mrs. B's husband was a noted composer of church music and a concert organist and I did follow his career as well as I could before the Internet.
A few years ago I was pleased to hear that Mr. Donald B was going to be coming to my church in St. Joseph, MI to perform an organ concert. I was hopeful that his wife would be accompanying him. The church choir was going to be performing as well and my mother, a member of the choir, spoke to Mr. B. and learned that his wife could not be present.
I wrote a letter to Mrs. Margaret B, attended the concert and at the social hour following I introduced myself to Mr. Donald B, told him his wife was my third grade teacher at St. Peter's Lutheran School in East Detroit and that I had this letter for him to give her. He was gracious and pleasant and told me that my class was the only class that his wife had ever taught, that they had started their own family that year and now had 6 children and many grandchildren. He did take my letter and told me his wife would be pleased to receive it.
Since that time, I have enjoyed a correspondence with Mrs. B. She and her husband, who has recently retired, live in Ohio. I had joked with her in my first letter that perhaps she had given up teaching because the girls in the class were so accident prone and gave her angst but she answered that we were the best experience she could have asked for and she frequently thinks of her class. Our class had recently had a confirmation reunion and I had a photo of about 20 of her former students as adults and I framed the 4 x 6 photo, sent it to her and she was pleased to have it. To this day, she remarks on the photo when she writes me.
At this time, her grandson's future wife is the organist and choir director at my church. Their family is planning a 2011 reunion in St. Joseph for the summer of next year and I am hopeful that I will be able to see her again at that time.
I wrote her recently to tell her that I had retired this year. Her remark was "do you know how old I feel in knowing that my former student is retiring". She has sent me photos of herself and her family and she remains my favorite teacher. What a joy to have reconnected with her after all these years.
Paul Koenig on the S.S. Veendam
10 years ago