I had some amazing teachers who made a difference in my life. Miss Behrman (5th grade) and Miss Thomas (8th grade) are two that come immediately to mind. They made learning so much fun and made us students feel as though we could do anything we wanted to do.
I still remember the impact they made on me as a young child. Fortunately for me the learning didn’t stop there. Many years later, I served on the YWCA Board of Directors with Marge Behrman. I used to pick her up for night meetings and remember my daughters asking, “Mommy, are we going to pick up the nice, little lady with the red hair again?” Funny, but I didn’t remember her as little! In the 5th grade, I was about 5’ 5” and she was only about 5’ 1” but she always seemed so tall.
Often, she would walk home with some of her North Norwood students that lived close to her house. Since my house was just around the corner, I walked with her a lot. She always walked fast, as if she were going somewhere important. She never talked about school, but would tell us about the roses that grew on her backyard trellis, what she was going to cook for dinner or how important it was to help a neighbor.
I discovered much later that Marge was always going somewhere important. She lived her life to the fullest. She appreciated the small things in life and the most important thing in her life was being a school teacher.
Ruth Thomas taught science. Students never knew what to expect in her class. She made everything exciting, even the weather! I still can remember how her eyes would crinkle with laughter long before she laughed aloud. Her sense of humor was infectious and her classroom was always filled with a lot of noise. Who knew that kids could learn in such a noisy atmosphere?
One of the hardest things I ever had to do was discipline myself to call these ladies by their first names. They insisted so I obeyed. When I was in my 30’s, I was appointed to serve on the Norwood Board of Education and the first congratulatory phone calls I received were from Marge and Ruth.
They told me how proud they were of my appointment and how confident they were in my abilities to do a good job. Knowing they were proud of me made me feel about ten feet tall. But, in the next breath Ruth said, “We’re going to be watching and will not hesitate to call if you make decisions that don’t benefit our kids.” Wow! They hadn’t taught for years, but still considered the students in the district their kids.
I was blessed to see them often at school events such as the annual district-wide Art Expo, high school musicals or luncheons. They always wanted to know what was happening in my life and my former classmates’ lives; about our families, where we were working and what we were doing with our lives.
At both of their memorial services, the room was packed with former elementary students and teachers they had taught with. All of us laughing and crying together as we remembered the legacy they had left us all; a legacy of encouragement to continue learning and growing. A legacy of helping us to strive to be the very best we could be.
Ending on a Positive Note: Good teachers can awaken a passion in us to learn and grow; to never give up and always be willing to try. Their encouragement can inspire us and help build self-confidence. They have the ability to change our lives.