My most memorable school teacher would have to have been Mrs. Scruggs. She was my teacher in the sixth grade, which was the last year of grammar school in my home town, at least in those days. This was the last year before beginning junior high school and having to change classes and use lockers and such. Mrs. Scruggs taught the same students all subjects for the entire day.
I wouldn’t say she was particularly attractive. I’ve had some pretty teachers during my life, and each is memorable in her own way. And Mrs. Scruggs was neither the youngest nor the oldest teacher I ever had. I think she was maybe a few years younger than my mom, which would have made her nearly two decades younger than I am now (there’s a math word problem for you, if you’d care to take a crack at it). No, she wasn’t the most memorable teacher because of the way she looked or laughed. Or for the fact that she claimed some distant relationship to Alexander Hamilton. Not even, especially, for the way she taught, which was nothing remarkable.
Mrs. Scruggs is my most memorable teacher because she changed the course of my entire life. Until the sixth grade, I had been a mediocre student at best. My parents were comfortable with me bringing home B’s and C’s on my report cards, which in turn made me comfortable bringing them home. Mrs. Scruggs felt that I wasn’t applying myself and she was the first teacher I ever had who made me feel smart, whether I was or not. She made me feel good about myself. She introduced me to her husband and children, and she solicited my help in working on her graduate level projects. Under her tutelage I made straight A’s for the first time in my life. Even in penmanship. Do I think, today, that I earned all of those A’s? No, I don’t. My handwriting is still atrocious.
This changed the course of my life because it led to me getting into advanced classes in junior high school and on into high school. More importantly, it changed how I began to think of myself. Maybe I was one of the “smart” kids. I discovered years later that I wasn’t smart at all, just blessed with a good memory and a restive mind. But, at the time the new self-definition helped me to begin new friendships and learn habits that eventually led to my getting an academic scholarship to attend college.
Of course, I had other helping hands along the way, which reminds me of stories I should probably tell one day. But, it was Mrs. Scruggs who provided the pivotal moment in my academic life and changed my future. I can honestly say that much of what I am today, and what I have today, I owe to her in large part.
Maybe I was unkind to characterize her teaching style as nothing remarkable. It proved highly effective with me.