I found out yesterday that my 10th grade English teacher, Mrs. Ward, died over the weekend. You have to work through stuff like that and this is how I am choosing to pacify the grief. Now I know that most of you reading will be thinking that this woman and teacher inspired me to be the teacher I am today. That could not be farther from the truth. She was an older overweight lady. She was normally very sarcastic, that I did learn that from her. She was most of the time telling us that we could do better and stop being so stupid. Hell, I hated English as a class until I actually became a teacher. In high school I read maybe 4 books total, where now I will eat through that in a month. She would tell you on a regular basis that she was going to retire and she was ready to get out of there, teaching. She taught for 24 1/2 years and had so many days left she took early retirement and stopped at Christmas. What made Mrs. Ward my most memorable teacher is that she saw something in me that no one else did. She wasn’t trying to inspire me or even trying to make me a better person, I think she just saw that I was a confused kid trying to do the right thing and she thought that was okay. So after my sophomore year of high school I was Mrs. Ward’s teacher’s aide for the next 2 years. Mainly I sat in her room and graded papers, ran around the school, played jeopardy on the classroom computer, and would run out to her car and bother the ever living shit out of her while she smoked- she would always shoo me back into the school.
Mrs. Ward was the first teacher that I ever had that taught me it was okay to just be happy with what you were. I do not ever remember a deep intellectual conversation with her about too much, we did not have that relationship. She was a good person and I was trying to find a way to be a good person and we just happen to coexist at the same time and place. She may have some very different thoughts about me, but we never discussed that, so I will never know. It is one of those things where someone has an impact on your life so profound and you do not know if they even knew. Being a teacher now, I do things on a daily basis that I completely forget, but that students or kids seem to remember for a lifetime. In that way I guess she did influence me in my teaching career. She taught me that it is the little things that make a huge impact on someone trying to figure out this thing called life.
I hated English and she actually made it tolerable. It was never fun, but I could not be bored to tears in her class. The one thing I do remember is that everyone in the class had to recite the Marc Anthony speech from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”. That always stuck in my head. I can quote most of it, but not all of it, but hearing it 30 times over 3 days and having to memorize it does that to your brain. I also remember that Chris Olney, still my friend, showed me his 1st tatoo on his leg in her class, not to mention Olney also looking at me dead-faced and saying, “Is it bad that I can pull this much skin out of my mouth?” Olney used to dip tobacco in class and it was starting to have some very bad affects on his body. I did respond that it was probably bad that skin came out when you did that, but I smoked cigarettes at the time, so who was I to judge?
Mrs. Ward had a profound affect on my life and she will be missed. She saw something that even I didn’t know was there. Now that I am teacher myself, it is apparent that the teachers that really know what they are doing can see those things in young minds that maybe no one else can see. It comes with our profession. The funny thing is that I do not even know if Mrs. Ward even knew that I had become a teacher. She made the decision to retire and never looked back. That is another lesson that I took from her, always look to what is ahead and never look back. It is always amazing that certain people make such an impact in our lives. She never told me to get smarter, work harder, or to even be a better person. I think that she knew as long as she was real with me all that would make sense one day and it did. She was nothing but genuine to me and that has always resonated inside my head.
Mrs. Ward, know that you did some amazing things in your life and you made an impact on someone who wants to change the world. It may not mean a lot, but I will never forget you and plan on living my life influenced by your philosophy of being yourself. As a teacher now, I can only hope that maybe one day I will have the impact on a young mind that you had on mine. Thank you for all that you did. I know you are in a better place. I seriously doubt that I am the only student you made an impact on during your career. That is the amazing thing about people that enjoy being teachers, they truly love young minds and want to make them better people. They have chosen to use their lives to try to impart knowledge on others. I will never be this kind of teacher, but I am glad that there are educators that can make a difference. Maybe one day we can sit down together and have a cigarette, coffee, and talk about some random stuff.