I recall riding my bicycle down the tree-lined street to the not so familiar house of the very kind white hair woman that we called Mrs. Salisbury. Mrs. Salisbury was everyone’s favorite substitute teacher. Maybe it was her gentle way, how she posed a question to make you think and solve a problem yourself or how she reminded you of your great-aunt.
I happened into the arrangement of coming to her house when she saw my frustration with reading and writing. She helped put things in perspective in school and once she found out that my immigrant parents could not help outside of school, she offered to help for free.
Before going to Mrs. Salisbury’s, I would spend hours on the phone with my best friend Maria doing homework. While it was fun to be on the phone with my friend, it was painstaking to get the work done.
I used to enjoy those rides to her home and the extra attention. It really took some of the burden off my young shoulders. She gave freely of her after school time, a rare quality.
I remember Mrs. Salisbury as I remember all those teachers who went out of their way. I rank then very high in importance just after family and amongst the best of friends.
The last I had heard from her was in a lovely note I received after she read about my wedding (in 2000) in the newspaper. She wrote to congratulate us and sent her well wishes. By now 11 years later I am not certain if she still lives on that tree-lined street.
What I would want her to know (or her family) is this: Savor the fact that you made a difference in the world, a difference that I rank high in my book of priorities in life. That she extended a hand to a young mind and helped shape it to what it is today.
When people ask me if a particular school is a good place to attend, I say, “A school is only as good as the individual teacher”.
Here are the others I would like to thank who I fondly remember: Mrs. Conway who taught us home economics (remember home economics?). She was the first to teach us about “I” statements which allow me even now to express my feelings without putting the other person on the defensive.
To Doctors Lutz, Skully, and Vanderhoff who made a difference during my residency training and believed in me when I crumbled after my father’s devastating brain hemorrhage. To Dr. Basil Biscaye and Dr. Oh who made a difference in my obstetrical training. I still recall “Basil’s” words when I had a rough day on the OB ward: “You gotta take your lumps and bumps kid!” And Dr Oh’s quick hands during those emergency C-sections.
To my son’s nursery teachers Miss. Melody, Miss. Zanaida and Miss Marjorie who continue to make the difference with our daughter. To his KG teacher in Seattle: Miss Lisa who was the one who got him on the road to reading at 5 ½.
To my son’s first grade teacher Mrs. Krebs, a true “Mary Poppins” of teaching who helped take my son to where he is after a brief decline. And to Mrs. Kraft, who is continuing in Mrs. Krebs’s spirit this year enticing our son to learn, learn, and learn some more. There are so many more that I have forgotten to mention. I am grateful to all my teachers.
Which teacher made a difference in your life? Or, maybe it was a mentor?