Thank You Thursday salutes: Mrs. Elizabeth Kitchen, my 7th grade English teacher. Granted, that was a while ago and Mrs. Kitchen has been gone for years. But what she shared with me never left: the love of words.
Mrs. Kitchen looked like a Rockwell portrait of an all American grandmother: white haired and apple cheeked, with a twinkle in her eye, even when she was serious. Once a month Mrs. Kitchen handed out Reader's Digest. Our assignment was to complete the "It Pays To Enrich Your Word Power". She believed in learning by doing...that self motivation was better than a teacher droning on in a monotone at the front of a classroom. The bonus, for a kid like me who loved to read, was that if we completed the task before the allotted time was up, we could read the rest of the magazine.
Not only did I increase my vocabulary, I increased my reading/comprehension skills. To this day, if I pick up a Reader's Digest, I go to that page first. Because of her belief that we could learn anything, I still get a high score...and probably learn a new word.
Mrs. Kitchen inspired with her can-do attitude. She only had 2 rules: (1) that we always do our best and (2) we were forbidden to chew gum in class. The gum thing was actually a school rule, but it was her pet peeve. Offenders were made to memorize a poem and recite it in front of the class at the end of the week. My friend Pete got caught. But he possessed a wily sense of female sentimentality, even at the age of 13. So when his recitation came, he turned, not to the class, but toward Mrs. Kitchen and began to recite...a love poem. Her face remained stoic while every little girl in the class swooned. (Except me...I knew his sense of humor was at play). She complimented his recitation, gently noting that she hoped he'd learned his lesson.
Funny, I don't remember the poem. But I remember her reaction as Pete wandered back to his seat with a Cheshire cat grin. Mrs. Kitchen's cheeks grew rosy and she fanned herself once. Yet another lesson in the power of words.
Although this Thank You may seem to come way too long after the fact, I actually made it to her, in writing, years ago. After I sold my first article, I wrote to her and my 8th grade English teacher, to thank them for encouraging my love of the English language. They wrote back, pleasantly surprised, to know that a woman in her 20s still thought of them fondly.
But that's what good teachers do....they stay with you. Forever.