I can’t remember anything about Kindergarten, or first grade, or second grade. The first elementary school teacher I remember was my third grade teacher, Mr. Loh. It’s a vague, watery memory, though I do know that his classroom was on the second floor on the southeast corner of the building and that the lockers were along the right hand wall. They were brown, a memory corroborated because I still have the class photo. Actually, I have all seven elementary school class photos, from Kindergarten through sixth grade. I even still know some of the people in the pictures.
Fourth grade was the year I was growing out my bangs and had them clipped back to the top of my head for months. We were supposed to learn phonics that year, and had a phonics workbook that we were supposed to complete. I did not put one single pencil mark in that workbook, ever, during that entire school year. But I was never found out because we never had to show our work, and in June, we had a “rip up all the paper and worksheets and anything that wasn’t a textbook” party and I ripped that workbook up and good. Mrs. Husch never knew, not that I thought she’d have cared, because I was a good student.
My fifth grade teacher was a nasty old bat, Mrs. Gagliotti, emphasis on the GAG.
And in sixth grade, they were trying some experimental stuff with bridge classes, so I was actually in a five-six bridge class with two teachers and twice as many kids. One of the teachers was the gag-inducing Mrs. Gagliotti, but the other was the completely divine Mrs. Gordon.
Mrs. Gordon. She was the kind of teacher who cheered when my mother took me out of school to go to dress rehearsals at the New York City Ballet. She encouraged reading and independence, and her first name was Selma, and she inspired five of us who were in her class to continue to see her after school periodically for years. We’d rendezvous at a little coffee shop near the movie theater and one of the five of us dubbed us the S.E.L.M.A.S.– Sentimental Education Lovers Meeting After School. Eventually, the S.E.L.M.A.S. stopped meeting but all of us* stayed in touch with her – through high school, through college, and on into our lives. Mrs. Gordon sent me a wedding present, and a gift when my baby was born. She lived in Queens, and we’d have lunch in the city; one day she told me all about a documentary that she’d been working on. Mrs. Gordon was a bit of an enigma: I know she had no children; I don't know if she had a husband. She died four years ago - long-retired, well-loved, still remembered.
Today, my daughter started sixth grade. The other night at dinner, I told her that of all of my elementary school teachers, my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Gordon, was the one I remembered. I told her that Mrs. Gordon had sent her a little pink suit when she was born, and that I hope for her that one of her teachers this year is as memorable and wonderful and committed a teacher as Mrs. Gordon had been for me, and for so many others.
|Ready to meet her Mrs. Gordon|
*Well, me plus three that I know of for sure – the fifth S.E.L.M.A. died a few years ago so I can’t know anymore. And yes, I’m friends with those other three people on Facebook, because that’s how things go these days.