Friday, May 7, 2010

Flashback Friday for Nat'l Teacher Appreciation Week

I thought it would be fun to do the Flashback Friday this week, hosted by Mocha With Linda (click on the logo above to go to Linda's blog).

Our task is to tell about our favorite teacher(s) and how they influenced us.

There were three teachers in grade school whom I adored and remember vividly: 1) my third grade teacher, Mrs. Siedentop; 2) my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Sloan; 4) my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Blehart.

I'd found school to be a total snooze-fest during 2nd grade. The teacher that year was newly out of college and was still finding her way when it came to handling a classroom and making lessons interesting. I was bored, to put it mildly, and tried to find any and every excuse that would let me stay home from school on any given day.

Come third grade, all that changed. Mrs. Siedontop, although young, had taught for a few years. She was kind, she was interesting, she used lots of visuals in our work. Due to overcrowding, all four of the third grade classes were bussed out of the main elementary school building each day to the old two-room school houses in our district. Our school house was the furthest away, so in hindsight, that must have meant that Mrs. Siedontop and Mrs. Murphy (who taught in the other classroom) had dramatically shortened class time with their students. It seems to me that Mrs. Siedontop made the most of it. I enjoyed the work that year so much! We did arithmetic drills in teams, as I recall.  Mrs. Siedontop kept track of each team's progress through charts drawn on the blackboards that were affixed to each segment of the folding (old fashioned) classroom divider wall. And she also encouraged me to knit! Since I often finished my classwork earlier than the other children, Mrs. Siedontop encouraged me to bring my knitting to school and work at it while the other students continued to work. I found it difficult, but I wanted to be like her, so I knitted through most of the year. Didn't accomplish much, I'm afraid -- I never really got the hang of knitting well -- but it kept me absorbed while the others were working, and it gave me a point of contact with my teacher that had nothing to do with school work.

Fourth grade -- back in the main elementary school building again, in the classroom of a seasoned teacher who had traveled to Europe on more than one occasion.  Our Social Studies lessons that year were focused on Europe, and I was entranced to hear Mrs. Sloan talk about what she'd seen with her own eyes about the places we were studying.  She loved opera, too, and a portion of one memorable lesson about Italy was sung recitative-style by a brave girl in our class, at Mrs. Sloan's suggestion. (It wasn't me -- I was too shy.)  Mrs. Sloan was a very classy lady and I wanted to be like her -- sophisticated, refined, kind and interesting.

On to fifth grade, with a teacher new to our school but not new to teaching.  Coming in as our teacher at the half-year mark, Mrs. Blehart had just moved to our town. I liked her instantly. She was fair, firm and interesting. (Do you see the pattern here -- I really needed my teachers to be both kind and interesting!) Mrs. Blehart taught us how to make an outline by insisting that we outline our Social Studies notes all year. I remember struggling with that because I wanted to write too much in each line, but it was an excellent exercise and a learning experience that stood us in good stead as we moved on to the upper grades. To my delight, she and her husband had moved into an apartment complex down the street from us while they waited to find a house to buy. I remember with pleasure her invitation to go on a bike ride one Spring afternoon. She checked with my mother in advance, of course, and I awaited the day with much excitement! I don't remember exactly where we rode, but I enjoyed her company and getting to know her a little bit outside of the classroom.  I don't know whether she did that with any other students or what was the impetus behind the invitation, but it remains, for me, a great memory of a great teacher!

I actually reconnected recently with my third grade teacher, Mrs. Siedontop, through Facebook, and it has been fun to see a glimpse of her life 45 years later.  When I knew her, she was newly married. Now she is a grandmother of grown grandchildren. Mrs. Sloan and Mrs. Blehart, I believe, are both passed on now. I never had the opportunity to see them again after I moved on to the district's middle school. In hindsight, I wish I'd gone back to visit at some point, to thank them for all they did.

If you wish to play along and join the Flashback Friday fun, you can link up your own post over at Mocha with Linda!

Have a great weekend!

- Catherine


Mocha with Linda said...

I'm so glad you joined the meme this week. I enjoyed reading your memories about your teachers. Good teachers have such an impact, don't they?

I see in your sidebar that this will be your first Mother's Day without your mom. That was me last year, as my mom's been gone a little more than 18 months. Praying God's will comfort you with sweet memories!

Susan said...

What a fabulous post! I loved so many of my teachers that it'd be hard to pick one. I think the relationships make the difference even when it's 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade.