Saturday 03 Dec 2016

Just a Teacher
AJ Robinson

Recently, I relearned the importance of teachers. Between fights over school funding and ads by companies speaking of their support for education, it seems teachers are very much en vogue. Over the years, I’ve had quite a few teachers; from preschool to graduate school and some have been quite good. One in particular really stands out, my first, second and third grade teacher, Mrs. Bresnahand. I still remember her introducing herself to us on that first day, and holding up her hand to illustrate that her name was “hand” and not “ham.”

Many other memories of Mrs. Bresnahand burn bright in my old brain.

She taught me to read. I was the last child in the class to learn and it was a book about a little turtle. For some reason, I was afraid of learning to read, as if it was something dangerous, but she was patient and helped me through the process. She also brought a typewriter into the class and let us type on it. Not that any of us could really type, but she wanted us to get used to it, play with it and see what we could do with it. Most of the kids just hit the same key, repeatedly, but I let my fingers wander and hit random patterns, and then I proudly showed her my efforts. She patiently sat there and “read” my work, and circled actual words I had accidently written. I was amazed; I had really written something? After that, I was inspired; I would repeat those patterns and change them by adding new letters: an “f” in front of “ate” or an “s” in front of and behind “eat.”

It was in her class that I wrote my first story. It wasn’t much. It was nothing more than a variation of a commercial I’d seen on TV, but she liked it and helped me to come up with an ending for it. Huh, maybe I have her to thank for being a writer today.

One time, when I was home sick with a cold, I watched “Romper Room,” quite the popular show back then. At the end, the teacher looked in her magic mirror and said hello to a number of children, calling them by their first names only, and she mentioned my name. I was so surprised; she’d never done that before, and I asked my mother how she could know I was there. My mom said that maybe Mrs. Bresnahand had sent my name in to cheer me up. Mom was always so good at such things.

When I got my first camera for Christmas, I just had to bring it to school to take pictures of all my friends. I aimed it at Mrs. B and she struck a silly pose, she didn’t think it was a real camera. I still have the picture, and it makes me smile to see it every time I open that album.

Every Halloween I’d visit her house, and she always loved my costume, which made me feel special. Of course, when I grew up, I figured she’d said the same to every one of her students who came to her house on Halloween. Still, that’s what special teachers do.

Then, of course, third grade ended and the time for us to move on. She held a party at her house and invited us all to come. It was a great day, another memory that burns bright in my mind. Her house made me think of her recently. Although I was no interior decorator, what child of eight is, I do remember her home being a cute little place; just right for a teacher.

Today, what with foreclosures and “McMansions,” and certain politicians saying that everyone wants to live in a big house, I can’t help but think of Mrs. B. She worked as a teacher, which meant no big salary, no big benefits, no big retirement package – and no big house. Yet, she seemed happy and content with her life and her home, and she inspired and helped many children. I sure wish I could get in touch with her; I often wonder what became of her.

Thanks, Mrs. Bresnahand, you were the best.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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