I posted this a year and a half ago, but as I notice the news feed on Facebook and see that its National Teacher Appreciation Week, I thought it would be worth sharing again!
The idea for this blog has been rumbling in my head even since before blogs existed. I’ve often thought of the many people who come in and out of my life. I’ve been taught to sing, read, cook, teach, type, observe, care, love, risk, fear, and many other things along the way. About 4 years ago I had the chance to thank one of those people in person. My 5th grade teacher!
She was awesome and we, her small class of about 20 students, were awestruck. Strict? Yes! Caring? Yes! She wanted what was best for each of us. Pushed us to try harder, to do things that made us each believe we could do more!
My husband and I were out to dinner at our favorite restaurant, D. Carlo’s, a nice, low-key place where you could sit for hours and eat and drink some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had–which is a story for another day. There I sat with my husband, celebrating our anniversary, when in walked a party of four. An older and younger couple, clearly related to one another, and sitting just a few tables away. The older couple, regal and striking, heads held high and an air of deliberateness in their stride. I said to my husband, “I think that’s my fifth grade teacher.” He didn’t believe me at first, how could I possibly remember who I had in the fifth grade. Well, I remember all of my teachers from elementary school, I told him.
But how did I know it was her? Well, Mrs. Fontana played the piano for us, mostly it was a Friday afternoon treat, but sometimes we could talk her into a command performance if we were particularly well-behaved that day. The year I was lucky enough to be in her class she decided that we would do a school play. Lots of music, terrific songs from well know shows and movies like the Flower Drum Song, Mame and Meet Me in St. Louis.
Mrs. Fontana played the piano that stood in the classroom. We’d stand near, as each of us jockeyed to get a good view of her and to be as close as we could to the music. Her long fingers breezed over the keys and would only come down hard on them when she was trying to get our attention. It was her fingers that I remembered most. She had two rings on them. One, her wedding ring; the other, one that looked like a paint brush stroke around her finger. I don’t entirely remember if it was gold or silver.
I said to my husband, I’m sure: it’s her! Look, her fingers. There’s the ring I remember. I excused myself from my husband and told him I had to speak to her, to say “thank you”.
I approached the table, asking pardon for my interruption, but was she, in fact, Mrs. Fontana. Before I even had the entire question completed, she said, “Kelly?” Can you imagine! Five of the eight kids in my family had her for a teacher and she remembered me!
She made me sing a solo that year; more than one I think. I told her that, had I not been pushed to do something as uncomfortable as singing “I Enjoy Being a Girl, I probably would not be able to do the public speaking I do today. I told her that I had to thank her, that without having her as a teacher I’m not sure I’d be where I am today!
As we left the restaurant, I was thrilled I had the chance to have said “Thank you” to my teacher. It is a moment, that without sounding to cliché, I don’t think I will ever forget!