Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Naming my teachers

I recently saw a request from Diane at Snappy Finger (or Blue Ridge Gal, she keeps changing the name, stop it, Diane!) on Facebook for the name of her third grade teacher, and that made me think. Do I remember all of my elementary school teachers?

Kindergarten at East Salem. I don't remember! I know I had one, though.

1st grade at East Salem. Mrs. Zircle. I recall her as being very mean and sending me home in tears; I remember my mother telling me at some point that her husband had passed away and I should be kind to her. A bit difficult for a six-year-old to understand, I would think.

Breckinridge Elementary School

2nd grade. Mrs. Wright. She was the first teacher to insist on calling me by my "real" name as opposed to the family nickname. I will always be grateful to her for that.

3rd grade. Mrs. Fairfax. She was very kind to me, especially since I think this was the year I started missing an average of 30 days of school due to asthma and related bronchial issues. One of my main memories about third grade has more to do with my parents than my teacher. My father had asked me if there were any black teachers at the school, and I had told him no. When the parent-teacher meeting was held, lo and behold there was my teacher, Mrs. Fairfax ... and she was black. I received a beating for lying. I tried to explain to my father that I just never noticed that she wasn't white. He didn't believe me.

4th grade. Mrs. Lanning. Two incidents with this teacher. In one, she stopped the class mid-discussion and called on me. "Anita, who did your hair?" she demanded. "It looks terrible." My mother had done my hair in some kind of strange part and plait that morning. I never again let my mother do my hair. In the other, Mrs. Lanning sent a note home demanding my parents attend the parent-teacher meeting. She told my parents that she didn't know what was going on at home but obviously there were problems. "That child will not hug anyone," she said. "She yearns to be hugged and sometimes she just stands beside me, very close. If I touch her she flinches, though." My mother berated me all the way home for ... well, not being huggable, I guess. In spite of these incidents, I loved Mrs. Lanning and I was teacher's pet.

5th grade. Mrs. Prease aka Mrs. McCullough. Mrs. Prease cried all through the school year. She really should not have been teaching. I don't know what was going on with her in her personal life but she spent a lot of time with her head on her desk in tears.

6th grade. Mrs. Nofsinger. She was a very old woman who chewed tobacco. She was the most difficult teacher in the school. I thought she was terrific.

Bible Study. We actually had a Bible study course from 4th-6th grade at Breckinridge. Fourth grade must have been a bad time for me, because Mrs. Caldwell, the Bible study teacher, made fun of me in Bible study class because my church attendance book was empty. My family did not go to church. After that I requested to be excused from Bible study and I was sent to the library along with three other children whose parents did not want them in Bible study. I loved learning about the Bible but I didn't appreciate being scolded for something I had no control over.


  1. My 5th grade teacher cried all the time, too!! I always thought it was boyfriend trouble, but I really had no clue.
    In 3rd grade (1968)we were to have the first black child in our school. Our teachers lectured us to never, ever treat this child different from the rest. I didn't understand the big deal. The thought never crossed my mind to treat him differently.

    And isn't it amazing how many mean, thoughtless teachers are out there?

  2. I could only remember 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 6th. Not sure why 3rd and 4th draw blanks...

  3. At Huff Lane School in Roanoke:
    1st grade: Mrs. Willhide (She read Sonny Elephant to us.)
    2nd: Mrs. Cheatham (We only attended a half-day that year because the school was over-crowded—and I was in the morning session. My classroom had been the janitor's room in the previous year. I remember less about 2nd grade than any other.)
    3rd: Miss Nancy Driscoll. (She became Mrs. Finley over the summer. She was the only young elementary teacher I had. She took us on a field trip to the Huff Farm.)
    4th: Mrs. Ellen Clark ( was teacher's pet that year.)
    5th: Mrs. Pocohontas Shelton (She was old and strict. We sang Dixie every morning as part of devotions. She read The Adventures of William Green Hill to us and took us on an all-day field trip to Lexington and Natural Bridge.)
    6th: Mrs. Ruth Creasy (She took us on a trip to the downtown Roanoke Public Library. I was impressed and soon got a library card.)

  4. Great memory you have! Sitting here trying to remember all of my teachers with no luck.


  5. Mrs. Golden, Mrs. Smith, Miss Fleck, Miss Neville, Miss Walsh, Miss J...(can see her face but forget her name), Mr. Herman.

  6. I was just thinking the other day of my 1st Grade teacher - Miss Richardson - and felt that surely everyone must remember the name of their first teacher - just goes to show the impression they make while molding our little minds :0)


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