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I truly appreciate that you've decided to share part of your day in my world. I hope your time has been well spent and I've made you smile, laugh or think.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Happy Birthday to Mrs. Wittkop

Thursday is my high school English teacher's birthday.  Now most people probably don't know when their high school English teacher's birthday is, but I do.  She wasn't just a teacher, she's also my friend. A Facebook friend to boot.  And I won't even mention that her profile pic is of us together WITH ME EDITED OUT.  Oops. I guess that slipped out.

I was very fortunate to have some pretty spectacular teachers growing up.  The fact that I've stayed in touch with many over the years shows not only the respect that I have for them, but of the kind of people they are that they would even care to stay in touch with me and their other students.

Mrs. Wittkop, or Vickie as I can call her now, always took her "job" a step further.  It was more of a lifestyle.

She was my homeroom teacher for 4 years, my English teacher during my junior year and our student council advisor.  She personally was responsible for taking an organization that had fallen apart and getting kids involved.  Kids of all organizations.  Student leadership usually seems to take on one of two types- the cool kids or the nerds.  Our student council, with Vickie as an advisor, truly included everyone.  The jocks hung out with the nerds.  The stoners even got involved (some were pretty fabulous artists).  The band kids, the cheerleaders- everyone was invited to come.  It truly created a sense of school spirit that hadn't been there before.  She always knew how to bring out the best in kids and never seemed to let stereotypes pigeon hole her.  In her eyes it seemed everyone had a talent or a gift.

She wasn't a pushover, however.  For a tiny woman, she could be quite stern.  She had a great death glare.  I received it once.  I wrote a spectacular paper on "Ethan Frome."  She even read an excerpt to the class.  The problem was, I hadn't actually read the book.  I honed all the info from the discussions we had had in class.  She had heard that a number of students hadn't read it and slapped us with a surprise quiz.  Oops.  I still remember the guilt that I felt when she handed back my C- quiz and said, quite sternly, "Hamrick, I did not expect this from you."  I felt so bad I went home and read the book that night. 

We also used to go to her house and hang out on a regular basis.  This is how I became friends with her kids.  She is such a great mom.  I always noticed that she treated her kids with respect- I never heard her talk down to them. I always felt a little guilty.  She gave so much to us, her students, I don't know how she had anything left for her own kids.  But they seemed to turn out okay-her son still cracks me up and her daughter is so smart- I love reading their posts. 

Her husband was always a good sport about the late nights - he would smile and go up to bed (he worked very early) while we all had great discussions on books we were reading, projects from school, colleges, or after I graduated, life in general.  I learned a lot in her living room.

Lately it seems that teachers are getting blamed for many things.  In fact, I have no idea why anyone would want to go into teaching these days.  It seems that they are now solely responsible for raising other people's children.  I know there are bad teachers out there- I've met some.  I also know that the bar for teachers has been set very high for me, so I try not to judge.  For Vickie, teaching was a passion and it showed.  It never seemed to me that she had a job- she had a mission.

Her mission now is to be a grandmother and from what I can gather, she's even more passionate about that.

In conclusion, because this is how I was taught to end a narrative essay, I would like to wish Mrs. Wittkop a truly happy birthday.  I am very honored and proud that you read my blog.  I don't have a gift to give you exactly, other than that I think of you often when I'm reading and wonder what you would think about a certain passage or storyline.  When I write, I'm always thoughtful that you have a red pen, on hand, ready to edit.  I have a feeling that that is probably gift enough.

Have a wonderful day and thank you for everything!

That's my left hand on her shoulder.....


Mindy Geihs said...

What a lovely tribute to your teacher and friend, Lori! I hope I am able to make such an impact on my students' lives as well!

Doug Coutts said...

Well done Lori. She is my favorite English teacher, too. And I didn't even attend her class!