Sunday, February 10, 2013

Blast from the Past

Yesterday I had the honor and privilege of running into an old high school teacher. Her name is Tina, and she taught me Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Trig. I was an A student and yes, teacher's pet.

She was a hard teacher, with the reputation to match it. I loved her and thought she was the best math teacher ever.

We have kept in touch all of these years, sending annual Christmas cards. In the last card, I noted that I wrote this blog, and Tina told me yesterday that she'd been reading it every day!

I was so surprised. What a wonderful compliment. She also told me to get off my butt and write my book. I wonder if that will be the nudge I need?

Below is a column I wrote in 2009 for The Fincastle Herald about my favorite teacher. I never put it on my blog but I will do so today, except I will leave out last names, since I don't want to post them on the Internet.

Students who attended Lord Botetourt from 1972 to 1984 might remember Tina F., one of the math teachers. I studied under her for three years, taking Algebra and Trigonometry.

Mrs. F. was either the dragon lady or one of the best teachers ever, depending upon your point of view.

I know quite a few students tend to recall her as the former while I always have thought of her as the latter.

She was a strict teacher and her subject matter was difficult. She expected and demanded the very best from her students. If you didn’t give it, she would know why. If you were capable of “A” work then you’d better darn well get that grade.

She was also very interested in her students and spent mornings, lunch and time after school helping me and others to learn the intricacies of X+Y-Z=3 or other unintelligible equations.

Mrs. F. had a strong voice and an even stronger personality. You knew when she was in the room. You didn’t dare misbehave for her wrath was real and fearsome.

I thought she was wonderful.

I was a teacher’s pet, I admit. I did my homework, I studied and I made good grades. Other kids called me names like “computer head” (or brainiac, as a cousin recently reminded me when I thoroughly trounced her in a word game on Facebook).

Teachers praised my work ethic and I lapped it up. Mrs. F. was judicious with her words and thus praise from her meant a great deal. I had earned it.

I turned to her for guidance for important and upsetting national events, like the murder of John Lennon and the shooting of President Ronald Reagan. I also went to her with personal issues, like a dating.

“You are one of the few that has spent 3 years with me and is still alive!” she wrote in my senior album.

She even took me out for a steak dinner to celebrate my graduation when the time came. She was the least surprised of all of my teachers when I chose not to go straight to college but instead decided to work a year. She didn’t blink when just a few months later I let her know I was getting married.

She knew me well.

As for Mrs. F., she remarried, becoming Tina W. It took me a long time to get used to her new name.

We stayed in touch with Christmas cards. She left LB to go to Roanoke City Schools, where she eventually worked her way up to assistant principle at Lucy Addision.

Her father for a time was head of the Roanoke City Fire Department where my husband worked. It was another bond between my old teacher and me. When he passed away in 1995 I went with my spouse to the funeral.

Tina told me later that when she’d given her father’s eulogy, she had been pleased to look out at a sea of firemen in uniform and see me amongst them, a favorite student from the past honoring her loss.

This December Tina sent me her cell phone number with my Christmas card. “I’m retired now. Let’s have lunch,” she wrote.

We met recently at Shakers for a reunion. She looked exactly like she did in high school, with her hair cut short and very few wrinkles. She pulled in the parking lot driving a hot little two-seater and I recalled she drove something similar when she taught at LB.

I could scarcely believe it had been over 25 years since I was her student. I can hardly find the words to say how grateful I am for her interest in me, then and now.

She has never been a dragon lady to me.



  1. I also loved my tough, but fair teachers. I liked it when they explained well , geared the homework to the test and tested what they taught.
    My favorite math teacher drove a Corvette. It's like they are letting us know that they are math nerds, but still cool!

  2. Listen to your teacher. Write that book!

  3. That's wonderful. I still remember my 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Marley. She was the only one who encouraged me to write. In fact, she gave me the IDEA. I still remember what she wrote on the top of one of my compositions: "Debbie, you will make a fine writer someday!" Good teachers truly change lives.

  4. What a wonderful tribute to your teacher, Anita! I know it must mean a great deal to her to read it. I had a teacher in second grade who had a profound influence on me. I wish I could have told her what she meant to me.

  5. I helped her move in to her first house and she made me sit at the front of her room by her desk. I created chaos in her room. I was not an A student, but she liked me any way!


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