Friday, December 5, 2008

Day 5: Mrs. Eckhart

Day 5 of Thanks-giving honors Mrs. Eckhart, my 4th grade teacher.  She was beautiful and blonde and had a rubenesque figure.  She was young and married to one of the guys on the base in Germany.  By this time, I had moved to the school at Lindsay II and attended school in an actual school building with a library and a playground.

Mrs. Eckart was another teacher who recognized that I was serious about learning.  I was social, yes, but I wanted to learn.  I would complete my work and she would allow me to go to the library and get books.  My favorite thing to do, though, was to read the encyclopedia.  I think I looked up people we were studying in class.  I would find the entries for Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln or Harriet Tubman and copy the info out of the encyclopedia.  I recently learned that my father had read through all the encyclopedias in his school library when he was young.  I wrote too hard and I always had black on the side of my hand from the pencil smears.

There came a day, in November, I think, when Mrs. Eckhart told us her husband had "gotten orders" and they were moving away.  I was devestated not only that she was leaving me but that I would be forced to be in class with my sister's former crazy 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Mott.  She had had a brain tumor and by the time I got to her, she was just an old lady teacher, no crazier than I am. ;)  I immediately started crying when I heard the news and she was very sad, herself.  She started the process of packing up some of her stuff immediately - there wasn't much time. 

On her last day in class, she gathered us around and offered each of us one book from her personal book shelf.  We took turns walking to her bookcase and perusing the offerings.  We had not read any of these books before, so they were mysterious and special.  I chose, "Juliette Lowe", a biography (I believe).  I didn't even know what it was about, but I treasured the old book and I still have it to this day.  Turns out, it was about Juliette Lowe, founder of the girl scouts (girl guides, I believe).  She was hard of hearing - born hearing and lost her hearing due to some illness (foreshadowing, maybe...I think I already wrote about "Helen Keller's Teacher"...).  

After choosing our books and getting our hug and words of encouragement, we had to pick up our wooden desks and carry them downstairs in the building and fit them into Mrs. Mott's class.  Many former classmates were there and we were so crowded that there was almost no room to walk - desks were immediately side by side.

I don't remember much more than that - only that she trusted me, challenged me to learn and her gentle encouragement stayed with me for many years.  Another instance of my teacher worship.

Mrs. Eckhart, thank you for sharing your love of reading, your pleasure in teaching and for understanding my need to explore and research.  I never forgot your class or you.  And I really do still have that book.  One of my oldest treasures.  

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