Thursday, January 13, 2005


My cyber friends and I were chatting about teachers, and it made me reflect on a teacher I once had.

The best teacher on the face of the earth was a woman by the name of Pat Beisel. I had her in 4th grade. She normally taught 3rd grade, but was put in 4th this one year to fill a need. She was single and put her heart and soul into teaching. I think the thing that made her the most unique is she thought outside the box. She taught us the three "R's", but she also taught us how to treat one another. She also wasn't afraid to talk about world issues and how they effected us. She treated us in 4th grade like we were "somebody" who had opinions and mattered. She had spent time teaching in Japan and Germany, and took what she learned there and taught us all about it. She showed us slides from both places and explained the different customs they had. Twenty-Two years later I still remember seeing those slides and hearing her talk about it.

I remember one school picture day. There was a little girl who came from a very large, very poor family. Her clothes were rarely clean, and her hair never combed. As we all know elementary school kids can be cruel, and most kids avoided her and didn't include her. This particular day we were standing in line waiting to get our pictures taken. I remember miss Beisel coming up to this little girl and telling her how pretty her dress was, and then asked her if she would like her to comb her hair. The little girl's eyes lit up. You could tell she was just tickled that someone cared enough to comb her hair. I was only about 9 years old when I saw this, but even then I understood the situation. And I understood Miss Beisel was a special woman for doing the things she did. She taught me that day to be kind to everyone, no matter how unpopular.

I also remember her teaching us about what is right and wrong. The school had a laminating machine, and Miss Beisel would let us laminate our art work to bring home. She wasn't supposed to do this, after all, it was expensive to laminate stuff. The principal found out and she got in trouble. She actually had the guts to go in front of the class and to tell us that what she did was wrong and she was sorry, and that she couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't believe that an adult was admitting to us 4th graders that she was wrong! It made me respect her even more.

When I moved from Pennsylvania to Texas after 4th grade I had a hard time adjusting. I was so worried about moving and missing my friends. Miss Beisel took me aside before the end of the last day of class. She told me she understood that I was scared about moving. She gave me her address on a little piece of paper and told me I could write to her any time when I was homesick. And I did. And she wrote back. And when I wrote her a particularly upset letter when I was about 13 and going through that 13-year-old-girl-rough-stage she even called me! For about 15 years we were pen pals. I visited her twice when I went back to PA. Unfortunately, I haven't written or heard from her in the last couple of years. Last I spoke with her she was retired and was getting married for the first time to what sounded like a wonderful widower that she had known for years. I sure hope it worked out. If anyone deserves to live happily ever after it is Miss Beisel.

Do you have a teacher who you particularly admired? C'mon! Tell me about it!


joy said...

Sniff...I'm going to cry...that was so sweet!

laura said...

His name was Mr Squeo and he was my fourth grade teacher. A few days before the last day of school, my cousin died in a mountain climbing accident. When I cried about it, he hugged me and cried too. I never saw a man cry before. (And the said thing is if this happened today, he'd probably get fired.)

He was the teacher that made me feel smart and inspired me to be a good student. Ironically, his first name is Joe... just another Joe in a long line of significant Joes for me.

Melissa said...

That is such a sweet story. I'm not sure I have a teacher like that. None that I can think of off the cuff. What a wonderful, beautiful story! Thank you