Thursday, August 28, 2014


I had the great fortune of growing up in a town that cared about education.

My parents cared, my friend's parents cared, and, above all, the teachers cared.

I am very thankful for that.

But I have never told the stories (at least here) about some of those teachers and what they instilled in me.

Kay Nietzsche--
 She was my homeroom/English teacher in seventh and eighth grade. I remember her as tall and thin. And I remember diagrammed sentences all over the blackboards. She introduced me to LITERATURE. And women writers. She sent me to the Lindsay Public Library and Ms. Peg Burr. Between the two of them I read things that were not on any curriculum. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is the first that comes to mind. Then the Bronte sisters and even a touch of Virginia Wolf. 

Kay Nietzsche expanded my world beyond the 5,000 people in my home town. She gave me the world.

Jesse Guerrero-
Four years of Spanish. I still can't speak it beyond the very elementary stuff--Buenos dias. Como esta?--Donde esta la bana (or el bano)?  and the ever necessary  Como se dice?

But his classes were more than a language. They were an education in culture and understanding and acceptance. 

And he taught me about losing. I was a finalist for the Lions Club Speech contest. Now lets face it, speeches are my thing. And they were then. I knew that I was good. But I lost. So the next day, Mr. Guerrero gets on my headset (he could listen in and talk to you privately--it was really cool) and tells me what I did well and what was the deciding factor in giving the win to someone else. And he reminds me that learning and going forward are the biggest things in life. 

Thank you, Jesse.

Steven Hannigan-
 I am NOT, I repeat, not a math person. But Mr. Hannigan made me want to be one. It was the one classroom that you walked into and NEVER said a word unless called upon to do so. A strict disciplinarian. Or so we thought.
A brilliant man who taught the beauty of math. He gave me geometry and Algebra II and trigonometry. (Couldn't take his calculus class because of scheduling issues my senior year-I swear I could have learned it from him!)
He taught me dedication. The man had offers at major universities and he stayed in the small town so he could teach. 
And then there was the Dawn Patrol. Six AM. Yes, crack of Dawn....To learn how to use a slide rule! (Yeah, if you don't know what a slide rule is think of a computer on a ruler. Or look it up.)

Orrie Fietsma-
 Freshman English. 
What can I say about a man who taught me that it was ok to be gentle with myself. Or that it was ok to come off the arrogant pedestal that I had been raised on and talk with people outside of my family circle. Or that music was a beautiful and wondrous thing. Or that being "different" was acceptable if you accepted yourself. 
Powerful lessons.

Thank you, Orrie.

Joe Ippolitto-
My senior year I was trying to do everything. Mr. Ippolitto was my teacher for Humanities, Journalism, and my adviser on the newspaper. 
I was the school mascot. I was editor of the school newspaper. I was in GAA (Girl's Athletic Association). I was in every club I could get into.
Looking back, I know that I was trying to avoid my home situation. But then I just felt I had to do everything and do it perfectly. The paper had to be just right, I had to be the best at my athletic endeavors etc. 
Mr. Ippolitto sent me home with a "deficiency notice" telling my parents that I was working too much. 
He knew. He saw. He was telling me to be true to myself and telling them to knock it off. It took me several years to understand but through that one act--

He taught me courage.   

I could go on. There were so, so many. And they taught me so very, very much.

I continue to thank the ones still with us. I try to honor the memory of the ones that are not. 


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