I started the 4th grade in 1987 in Ms. Griffith’s class. I finished the 4th grade in 1988 in Mrs. Chun’s class. Her husband proposed to her in front of our whole class with a singing telegram. Our class sang at the wedding, I caught the garter. We did a class play of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, I was Edmund. I remember how she would sing with us each morning and how she put her hand on my shoulder with empathy when we got back from Christmas break and I told her that I didn’t get the GI Joe Aircraft carrier. Even though she was my teacher, I think I maybe had a little bit of a crush on her, she was kind and pretty and always seemed interested in what all of us had to tell her. Her’s is the class I see in the forgotten corners of my mind when I think back to elementary school.
The middle school years can be tough on everyone and the feeling to fit in is almost palpable. I will never forget saving my money from mowing lawns and heading out to the mall, going into a cool clothes store called Chess King and buying Skidz. It was the coolest outfit I had ever owned and for once I was going to have the name brand clothes just like the cool kids. I remember wearing them on a Monday morning and feeling like the king of 7th grade. I think they went out of style the Wednesday of that same week but I didn’t get the memo and wore them again and endured some ridicule. That was the last time I wore them, middle school was hard. I will also never forget Ms. Hall, she was my English teacher and she taught me lots of things, the most important was that teachers don’t have to be the enemy. Ms. Hall was funny and cool and I remember that older kids from the high school would come by sometimes to visit her. She would joke with us and laugh with us and made me feel like her classroom was a safe place where the middle school pressure to be something you are still too young to be can be overwhelming. When I made it to high school I went back and visited her, I felt like the coolest kid ever.
In high school I seemed to find my way a bit but I still had plenty to learn. Mr. McCloud taught me that being sociable was a good thing but it was also ok to apply myself and that I was smarter than the effort I put forth. Mrs. Moody & Mrs. Evans taught me how to be a part of something that was bigger than me and put a class clown up on a stage and let me spread my wings in a more productive setting than the back of Mr. McCloud’s Algebra class. Mrs. Rivers taught me that the movie “Gone With the Wind” left out quite a bit of the book and that sometimes taking shortcuts aren’t the best idea. She also taught me it isn’t much fun getting an F on a test.
In college I had a philosophy professor (I don’t even remember his name) that not only taught me about existentialism but also that joining in on the conversation, attending classes, and taking an interest could make college a good experience for what happened inside of the classroom as well as what happened outside.
In 2003 I remember helping my wife hang paper on a bulletin board and getting her first classroom set up just right. It was what she wanted to be ever since she was a little girl. Most of us lose on making it to what we wanted to be when we grow up. For most of us it turns out to be “this is what I do” not “this is what I am.” Not for her though, a teacher is what she is.
I am sure that there were parents that summer that got their kid’s class list and weren’t thrilled that they got Mrs. Holland because it was her first year and you just never know about first year teachers. Fast forward a few years and it is common knowledge that if you have a third grader getting ready to start the year, you hope that they get to be in Mrs. Holland’s class. Kids from the high school come back to visit her and by the time they are freshman it has been over 5 years since 3rd grade. She makes a difference in those kid’s lives. The kind of difference that they still remember when they grow into full size people. She has this unbelievable gift that sets kids at ease and somehow they instantly know that they can trust her. She pushes them to be better and to grow and in her classroom is often where the bloom of a person begins. She doesn’t do teaching, she is a teacher.
Next year their won’t be any kids or parents excited because they got Mrs. Holland. After 10 years in the classroom it is time for a little break. She is going to stay home and cherish being a mom while our girls are still young. I am sad for this batch of rising second graders that they won’t get to experience a third grade year with her but I am more excited that we get to have her all to ourselves for a while. You see, she isn’t just a teacher. She is also a mom and that is another thing that she doesn’t just do, it is something that she is.
I couldn’t be more proud of the impact that she has made in her first 10 years of teaching and I know that there will be times that she will really miss it. She has been “playing school” for as long as she can remember and today she exclaimed with a tear in her eye that it was her last day to play. I know that she will be back in a classroom one day and I can’t wait for this next little chapter of our lives where we can grow as a family. She is so excited to be taking this break because even though every school year brings a fresh batch of 3rd graders, your own kids are only young once.
No matter how old we get we can all remember at least one teacher. The one that explained it different or the one that held our hand when we needed it or made us laugh and feel like we belonged. None of us would be were we are today if it weren’t for the impact of teachers and I just happened to be lucky enough to marry one. Teachers of the year come and go with each new calendar year but for dozens and dozens of kids, Mrs. Holland wasn’t a teacher of the year, she was the teacher of their life.
Here’s to the next chapter Mrs. Holland, cheers!