She called herself Mrs. G because her last name, Gildesgard, was a bit tricky for us to say. It also sounded tough. That worked, because she was tough. In our very first high school freshman English class together, she warned us she had excellent peripheral vision, so we needn’t try and get away with anything, she’d see it. (And she did. Not a note was passed or a wad of paper thrown that she didn’t catch and punish the perpetrator!). And trust me, reading the note you’d passed aloud in front of the class was way worse than detention. Way worse.
Mrs. G lay down some hard and fast rules, but throughout it all, her eyes sparkled, and her smile was genuine. She was one of those teachers who commanded instant respect on day one, and you gave it to her because she was worth respecting. Let’s face it, teens can see right through a phony, and a few of my classmates were known for being mouthy and quite cynical. But they never gave Mrs. G any guff.
I was blessed to know Mrs. G in another capacity. She went to the same church as I did. As a youngster, I rather imagined my teachers stayed at school. Didn’t they live there? The idea they had a family and a life outside that building was bizarre. Seeing Mrs. G singing in the choir, chatting with my family, and her genuine concern in how I was doing as a person, not just a body in her classroom, made her very human in my eyes. She was one of the sweetest, most caring people I had the pleasure to know.
Even after I graduated and moved away, Mrs. G would ask my parents how I was doing. When my first book was published, I sent her a copy as if to say, “Hey, I was paying attention more than you might have suspected!” I did the same with my second. She sent me back two wonderfully encouraging letters.
Mrs. G passed away this morning. When I heard, I pulled out those letters and re-read them. So often in life we forget to thank the people that made an impact on them when they were growing up. I’m so glad I had the chance. Now I have the chance to say it again. Thanks Mrs. G.