Today is World Teacher’s Day. And it got me thinking: who was my favorite teacher?
To be honest, there have been many remarkable teachers who’ve left their imprint on my life. Saying one stands above all the others would be untrue. Since I can’t identify a single favorite, I’d like to go back to the very first teacher who impacted me positively.
Miss Pfeiffer was my first grade teacher at Pike County Elementary School in Zebulon, Georgia. I didn’t attend kindergarten (it wasn’t required then), so first grade served as my foray into the classroom. Miss Pfeiffer was young, cute and foreign – she was a New Yorker. For a little Georgia girl, that New York lady was simply out of this world. She was also smart and caring. She managed to make me want to learn and to do well. Some may have thought I was a brown-noser, but I really did want to do my best, and I really wanted to show Miss Pfeiffer the same respect she showed me.
I loved school. Though I was only 6, I somehow understood the significance of learning. When I got pneumonia in the middle of the first grade and had to be hospitalized, missing school was heartbreaking. Once I was released from the hospital, it took a while before I was able to return to class. During that recuperation, Miss Pfeiffer came to visit me. We were living at my great grandparents’ falling-down, ramshackle of a house and I can still remember sitting on the front porch, wearing the pink quilted robe my Granny Nita had given me while I was in the hospital. The day was crisp, and I sat there with a blanket on my lap while Miss Pfeiffer showed me all the pictures and cards my classmates had made for me. I remember being pretty quiet, and I remember how swell it was to know my friends were thinking of me. Miss Pfeiffer told me she missed me in class and hoped I’d be all well soon. Then it was time for her to go.
Before she left, she started crying. I didn’t ask her why and I tried to look away, because I didn’t think she wanted me to see her tears. To this day, I don’t know if she was crying to see one of her students suffering an illness, or if she was crying to see just how poor some of her students were. As an adult, I understand that either way it must have been difficult for her to witness.
I watched her descend the front porch’s old wooden steps, and I watched her drive down the dirt path that led to the street. It was the last time I ever saw Miss Pfeiffer. When I was finally well enough to return to school, there was a new first grade teacher. Miss Pfeiffer had quit her job and returned to New York.
I never got the chance to tell her how much she meant to me, or how much she affected my young mind. I never got to thank her for inspiring me to be my best. I never got to thank her for showing me kindness. And I never got to thank her for just being herself, which in turn showed me it was okay to just be myself.
I don’t know where Miss Pfeiffer’s life took her. I only hope she found what she needed, and that she received just as much as she gave. She was a top-notch teacher. I’m glad I knew her.