Mrs. Reid, slender, dark-haired, gentle-voiced, and very strict, taught me to read in first grade, using the famous (or infamous) Reading with Dick and Jane series. I can vividly see and even hear the first pages of those books. I loved Dick, Jane, Sally, and of course, Spot.
In fourth grade, I basked in the radiance of Mrs. Hart (again, a name so like her being!) She was round and warm and constantly smiling; she oozed love. Her classroom was brightly lit and full of colors. Students' papers smiled proudly from the walls. I know we studied math and science and California history, complete with the standard Mission Model, but my most powerful memory is of the books Mrs. Hart kept on a special shelf at the back of the room. A series of biographies of famous Americans written especially for children, we were allowed to borrow them to read during free time or when we had finished an assignment. A contest developed: who could read the most books from this vast collection before the year was over? I loved those books, especially those about famous female Americans like Betsy Ross and Abigail Adams. Every spare moment I could squeeze out of the day, I spent reading those books. There were about fifty, I think, and I read most, though not all, of them. My interest in strong female characters has stayed with me; I find the life stories of women like Harriet Tubman, Amelia Earhart, and Eleanor Roosevelt to be powerful influences on my own life and character.
Mr. Fesler made my sixth grade year amazing, utterly amazing. Tall and slender, dressed in shirt and tie, Mr. Fesler was a commanding figure. He was brilliant; he seemed to know everything about everything. And he was artistic and creative, too. Oh, Mr. Fesler held us up to the highest standards, pushed us academically, then rewarded us with his attention and compliments. I started the year with four lovely spiral notebooks, each a different pastel color. I had never before possessed a spiral notebook; they seemed so adult and I felt so grownup using them. I remember taking notes and drawing careful and detailed illustrations with colored pencils in those books: Ra the Sun God, a map of the Nile, a neuron and a muscle cell, the digestive system. For an art project, I remember using pastel chalks in vibrant colors (again, soooo adult!) to create a beautiful scene of ocean waves and sky on a huge piece of construction paper, pictures which were eventually suspended from the classroom ceiling. We did Algebra, too, that year. (How grownup is that!) I learned about X and Y and equations and fell in love with them all. Math is black and white; answers are right or wrong. And, if they're wrong, you can confidently go back and fix them. Every afternoon that year, I came home from school, and immediately sat down at the dining room table to do my homework, always starting with math. To this day, if you look closely at that table in my parents' dining room, you can clearly see equations impressed deeply into its surface in my handwriting.
As the first day of school year 2010-2011 approaches, I aspire to share with my eighth graders my love for, and the power of, words and reading. I aspire to create a space and a community so that we can all learn and grow, be inspired, and develop our characters.
(In preparing this blog, I googled Christian Day School in San Fernando, hoping to link to a photo or two, old or new... only to find that it doesn't exist any longer... using google's surface street view on Kewen Street, I can't even find the buildings... and the only school listed in the directory is a Headstart Preschool... so if you have access to photos, let me know, please!)