GratiTuesday: Happy National Teacher Day, Miss Miller!

Today is National Teacher Day, a day set aside to honor those who make special contributions to the education of our society every day. Although I have had many wonderful teachers over the years (including those who teach the adult learning classes I attend now), one of the most inspirational teachers I had was my first grade teacher, Miss Miller.

Miss Miller was the kind of teacher any kid would be lucky to have. She was energetic, creative, patient, challenging, loving, and so much fun. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be faced with a classroom of 7- and 8-year-olds, most who hadn’t mastered the ability to sit still for any length of time, few who understood the concept of using their “inside voice,” and even fewer who had any idea what to expect and what was expected of them. Because our class had a combination of first and second graders, her job must have been even more challenging.

First Second 1963a

Although we entered her world with different childhood experiences and varying skill levels, on that first day we were all lumps of clay. Over the school year, Miss Miller skillfully worked her magic and slowly molded us into 30 young humans who, in addition to our academic lessons, learned to do our best, be nice to others, play fair, and to find joy in the process of acquiring knowledge.

I met some of my life-long friends in Miss Miller’s classroom. We made our way through grade school together and many of us went on to attend the same junior and senior high schools. Although our individual circumstances have changed over the years, the bond is still there.  One was my Maid of Honor, I was a guest in another’s home in Hawaii for 3 weeks, and I recently traveled to La Paz with still another.

From one of those friends, I was thrilled to learn that Miss Miller was still living in the area and was as healthy in mind and body as ever. I asked my friend if she could set up a lunch for the three of us so I could see my favorite teacher again and tell her how much she meant to me.

Out of that lunch came the germ of idea: we would gather together as many students from our first grade class as we could for a Thank You Miss Miller celebration. We figured that we couldn’t be the only two who remembered Miss Miller with a special fondness.

We reached out to as many of our classmates as we could and asked each one if they were in contact with any others. Pretty soon, we had about 20 email addresses. Out of those 20, we were able to get commitments from 10 – not bad from a class of 30 students who, over the 50+ years in between, certainly had moved on, both figuratively and literally. Happily, we discovered that we all still shared an appreciation for our teacher.

Group 2

The luncheon was a splendid success. Miss Miller (who will always remain Miss Miller to us even though she tried to have us call her Cynthia) was thrilled and touched by our show of gratitude. Her students—most of us now in our early 60s—had a delightful time catching up and sharing memories. As a special memento, we presented her with a book that contained thank you notes from each of us and our pictures, from first grade and now.

I am so grateful not only that I had the privilege of having Miss Miller as my teacher, but that I was able to thank her in person so many years later. How many 60-year-olds get to hang out with their first grade teacher?

Happy Teacher Day to all the amazing and dedicated teachers out there. You have made a difference in our lives and we are forever grateful to you!