Teachers Who Influenced My Life

Thinking back to my early education, I realize that some of my life choices have been largely influenced by a few notable teachers.

Sixth grade was rife with growing pains for me, accented by the usual social woes that befall kids that age. I was no different from most kids, not ugly, fairly smart and sweet-natured; however, many of my peers saw me as the teacher’s pet and not nearly roguish enough to be in their clique. I started wearing glasses at age four to straighten a ‘lazy eye’, which never fully corrected itself, hence I got the moniker of ‘cross-eyed bat’ compliments of ‘the clique.’ But in spite of this, I had someone in my corner — a mentor named Mrs. Yount. She was tough but fair-minded and deemed such slurs simply unacceptable. She instilled in me a sense of courage and self-worth that prepared me for even fiercer battles to come. She taught me to stand up to indignation and be myself no matter what. I also think she was largely responsible for my being chosen as one of two recipients of The American Legion award for good citizenship that year.

Thank you, Mrs. Yount.

Middle School ushered in the angst and growing pains of the teens, yet for all the ‘fitting in’ we attempt at this age, the lingering questions remain of who our true friends really are. When I was in Mr. Thompson’s science class, it didn’t matter. My mind was instantly distracted by the wonder of science, the chemistry of life and higher, more cerebral pursuits. Mr. Thompson had a way of making even the most difficult assignment seem amusing and fun. He was an adept storyteller and engaged our minds in unrelated tales of life and discovery while in the midst of learning how to separate and store agar plates or control your Bunsen burner. A bit of levity made the hard stuff much easier to digest. Teen worries were set aside for the hour we spent in Mr. Thompson’s science class and we adventured into the other-worldliness of science, the universe and most importantly, our imaginations.

Thank you, Mr. Thompson

My senior year in high school made up for many of the challenges I had in earlier years.
I was co-editor of our yearbook, head cheerleader, a member of student council, a member of the special singing ensemble, “The Mellotones”, and a solid “B+” student. Oh, yes, I even won the crowning glory of being selected “Miss Warrior” in a beauty/talent pageant patterned after the Miss America event.

But, alas, nothing is without its price. Some of my fellow cheerleaders fought me at every turn, envious of my leadership and making it difficult to be a cohesive ‘team’. We did okay but could have been much better. When the new principal (whom few liked) declared ‘no pep rally’ against our biggest arch rival in football, I led a peaceful protest of about 50 or so students, standing in the street out front of his home singing the school alma mater. This got some attention and some of the teachers joined forces to get the matter resolved to our satisfaction. There were three teachers who helped to shape the ‘future me’ that year: Miss Moss, Mrs. Hendrix and Ms. Tosh.

Miss Moss was widely respected and had been a teacher most of her life; she was a small, hunch-backed lady, not even as tall as most of her students, who had learned to endure ridicule early in life and win. Oh, but how she knew English literature. She also supervised the yearbook staff, and she was tough when it came to getting it right. But you wanted to get it right because you knew she was pushing you to be your best. She upset me as many times as she instructed me, but thankfully so much of what she taught me actually stuck. I learned perseverance and courage from her in a big way, not to mention some key points about good journalism.

Thank you, Miss Moss.

English has always been a favorite subject of mine and having Mrs. Hendrix as an English composition teacher was a blessing of major proportions. She made gerunds, infinitives and dangling participles fun, if you can believe that. Diagramming sentences was more pleasure than pain for me, and she always had time for a raised hand in the classroom. Mellow, confident, caring and intelligent best describe the qualities Mrs. Hendrix exuded. And the fact that one of her daughters, Lynnette, was a good friend and singing buddy of mine had little to do with Mrs. Hendrix being one of my favorite teachers. She earned that all on her own with qualities that are innate to a truly fine teacher and mentor. I think of her often and feel fortunate to have been one of her students.

Thank you, Mrs. Hendrix

Music has forever been a major force in my life. My parents started me on piano lessons at age four, a bit too young in hindsight, although my music teacher (Mrs. Murphy) said I had natural ability. I still love the piano, singing, dancing and generally exploring different kinds of musical expression. Acoustic guitar is a listening pleasure, but I don’t play. My music teacher in high school was Miss Tosh — a rotund woman with a dazzlingly beautiful face and coal black (dyed) hair. When she smiled the room lit up. When she was unhappy with your work or the class in general, it rained daggers. Often out of breath due to her size, she would forge ahead through the daily scales and vocal exercises that were sure to make us all stars one day. When I was chosen to be one of the three sopranos in the special singing group, “The Mellotones”, I felt so important and honored. A bit nervous and unsure, at first, we worked through our self-doubts and became a solid musical unit, working together as one voice, and participating in concerts and competitions.

Miss Tosh helped me to realize my vocal skills in such a capacity I might otherwise never have developed the confidence to perform. Because of this, I was in several high school musical productions, plays, school events and won the title of “Miss Warrior” with my musical adaptation of “It’s a Big, Wide Wonderful World”, as performed by Raggedy Ann in full costume. I went on to participate in the women’s chorale in college, and won the “Miss Caddo County” title that sent me to the “Miss Oklahoma” pageant in Tulsa. Competition was stiff and I had a health issue (ovarian cyst), so that was the end of my beauty pageant days. But music will always be a passion and a motivator in my life and one brilliant teacher in particular paved the way for my discovery.

Thank you, Miss Tosh.