Teachers leave their prints on our lives. Some shape us and some scar us. They can be boring and they can be inspiring. In my hometown there were three women who made lasting impressions on me and all 3 for completely different reasons.
Ms. Stevenson was my homeroom teacher in Jr. High. She was my first and last teacher-crush. (well, first aside from the T.V. Romper Room lady I was totally in love with when I was 3.) Ms. Stevenson was hot, especially for a teacher, and she was funny and most of the year I sat up at the front of the room and stared at her whenever she wasn’t looking. The two moments I remember most were her telling us a story about her cat chewing through an electrical cord at night after Ms. Stevenson had gone to bed. The cat got a electrical shock and bounced off the ceiling, Ms. Stevenson got a scare and I got to visit Ms. Stevenson’s apartment in my imagination.
The other moment was towards the end of the school year when I turned in this major research paper that I had spent loads of time on both writing and researching, I forced my mother to take me to dusty, dark backrooms for old articles that had been filed away, and when I got the paper back Ms. Stevenson had given it a C. A “C”. Average. Nothing special. No matter what the topic of the report I knew that each sentence that I had put so much time and effort in to really said, “I love, I love, I love you…” and I knew her “C” meant, “I reject you, I reject you, I reject you…” Girls my own age became much more attractive to me that day and I stopped thinking wearing blazers to school made me look older.
Mrs. Robinson (not her real name) was a high school teacher. She would sit on top of her desk, at the edge, and wrap her legs around the stand and play with it as she spoke to our class. I wouldn’t say she used it like a stripper pole but they definitely had a relationship. She was one of those great teachers who were determined to be the ‘cool’ teacher at the school and so never really was except in her own mind. I remember her giving us this paper in class one day that drew parallels between a Psalm, from the Bible, and a sonnet by Shakespeare. Her suggestion was that Shakespeare wrote the Bible. I wouldn’t smile like this if I didn’t think she was serious. She was exactly the kind of person who would’ve had her class reading The DaVinci Code with her and insist that it was both historical and scientific. She protected those she loved and tortured those she didn’t. When I first read C.S. Lewis’, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, she was cast in my imagination as the White Witch. And you know, I think she’d be thrilled with that.
Ms. Verner. If Ms. Stevenson was my Lady Diana and Mrs. Robinson the White Witch, Tede Verner was my Mother Teresa. She was an amazing teacher and woman and I couldn’t have loved her more. One day in journalism class she produced two fencing swords and challenged any takers to a duel. I could not not take the challenge. We went at it and she attacked me, driving me back across the room. At the last second, just before she would’ve killed me I got a lucky shot in and if she hadn’t been wearing glasses I would’ve taken her eye out. She stopped the match, realizing I was just uncoordinated enough to accidentally kill her.
She’d write, “Fine Job!” on the tops of my papers and made me feel like Hemingway (minus the binge drinking and suicidal thoughts).
In my last year of high school we had an academic quiz team that competed against other schools. I wasn’t smart enough for the team but I convinced Ms. Verner that like the other school teams they really needed a ‘manager’ and she took me on. I got to look like a genius, get out of school to go to competitions and have no real responsibility other than making Ms. Verner laugh. At one competition the “Host” asked a question about jazz that stumped all the teams. Turned out the correct answer was, “Jelly Roll Morton”. When he gave the answer I said, “I’d be too embarrassed to say that even if I knew the answer.” For whatever reason that struck Tede as the funniest thing she’d ever heard and I thought she was going to pass out from laughing so much. Since then, suffocating people with laughter has been an ambition, actually more like a hobby. Out of all my high school teachers, she’s the one I have contacted since I got out over 25 years ago.
That’s 4 teachers, one more to go, I’ll be writing about one of my profs from my Bible College experience next.
How about you? Any teachers leave a mark on you?