Teachers are SO important. Or should I say GOOD teachers are SO important. And there are a lot of them. My hat off to all the GOOD TEACHERS out there. hang in there! You make a difference! Teachers can change the course of a person’s life. It happened to me.
My career as a school-aged child, sadly, included few good teachers. Not that I was an easy student to tolerate. I was always looking for attention, and so I kind of developed a reputation for myself of being a problem student. I didn’t mean to. It’s just that I really wanted someone to notice me, and nurture me, and let me feel loved. And for some crazy reason, I thought that burying Gloria’s shoes in an ant pile, or convincing poor John that the doggie poop found in the grass was chocolate, would somehow garner me love and devotion from the adults in whose charge I was placed away from home.
But in spite of my not-so-adorable habits, I had one incredibly caring teacher who probably kept me from joining a gang or something. Well, maybe not quite that extreme. A nine-year-old white girl in cow-town Greeley, CO probably had little chance of finding a gang that would take her. But I bet I could have become a repeat offender at picking Mrs. Ellis’s petunias or doing the Ding-Dong Dash at Mr. Boyles’s over and over, no matter how many times he yelled down the street from his porch that he knew it was me.
Sherry Goodman came to my rescue. She was my fourth-grade Sunday school teacher. Clearly, my distinguished attendance record for weekly Sunday school had done little to form my disposition. But formation was of no particular interest to me. I just wanted to make sure I beat out Carol with Three Toes in the Bible Draw Your Swords game. First person to find the stated verse got a point. First person to five points, got the candy bar. I rarely found one of the scripture verses, but at least I wasn’t as slow as Carol with the Three Toes. (She really had eight toes, but the foot with only three stood out in my mind. There’d been an incident a few summers back when her dad was mowing the lawn, and Carol was running about barefoot, and what happened next, it’s just too grisly to describe. She recovered well enough, I’m happy to report. But I wasn’t able to really put it out of my mind, knowing that inside her shiny white Sunday Mary Janes, two toes that were supposed to be there, weren’t. It boggled my nine-year-old mind.) Sherry Goodman, my beloved Sherry Goodman, walked on water to me. I worshiped her. (Fortunately, she was unaware of how I’d adulterated the Bible lessons she was trying to impart.) She PAID ATTENTION to me. I got to sit by her in class. She let me come in on Saturdays and help her decorate the bulletin boards. She let me come to her house and watch her do laundry. And when she had her first kid, she let me actually hold him, like she trusted me! I knew it was pretty normal to make sure a nine-year-old kid sat down on a padded sofa first, with lots of pillows around, to hold a new baby. So that didn’t insult me in the least. But she didn’t even hover and make me feel like she doubted I could really hold him without dropping him on his head. She trusted me. She gave me her time, and she let me know I counted. When I was with her, I didn’t need to bury anyone’s shoes.
My family moved away at the end of that school year. Sherry (who let me call her by her FIRST NAME, which everyone knows really says a LOT) took me out for lunch and gave me a little book called “Children’s Letters to God.” I still have it. Inside the front cover, she signed it in her perfect, beautiful handwriting. And she even put a verse reference in it (which I didn’t have to compete with anyone to read). The verse basically says God was working on something good in me. Go figure. She saw something good in me. Now, that was one wonderful teacher who changed my life. Thank you, wherever you are, Sherry Goodman, for taking the time to let a lost little girl know someone loved her!
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