My mother tells me that from the time I was in Kindergarten I wanted to be a teacher. I loved my teachers: Mrs. Henderson, Miss Day, Miss Fox, Mrs. Anthony, Mrs. Hieden. I still to this day remember all of their names, though I may not remember all of their faces.
All through elementary when I played school with my sister and neighborhood friends I was always the teacher. It was my calling!
In 5th grade my parents separated and I was moved from public school to private school. I was always a shy kid, but this forced me out of my comfort zone and led to me becoming even more shy and withdrawn.
I must have gone to school without my hair brushed at times because I remember walking in line to the lunch room with my head down and hearing a high school student say, “Look! It’s Medusa.” You know, the mythological villain with snakes in her hair. Well, with my wavy hair, slept on and unbrushed, I can image it was a frightful site. At the time, however, it was hurtful. My self-esteem was at its lowest already.
If it were not for an amazing woman by the name of Aleta Bainbridge, I am not sure I would have survived that year. She was only about 27 and the mother of a 3-year-old, but she was wise beyond her years. The daughter of a missionary family who served in South Africa, she treated us each as if we were her own children. She often threatened to cut the bangs of one student who lived with her grandmother and always seemed to have hair in her face. I think she actually did get permission to cut them at one point.
I remember going to the bathroom one time and coming back out with bright blue eye shadow on my eyes. I cannot believe I would have ever done such a thing, but I did. Mrs. Bainbridge sent me right back into the bathroom to clean my face before I embarrassed myself. I was not too happy at the moment, but I am so thankful now, even for the little things she did.
We had to memorize scripture and songs in our Bible class. Rather than make us recite them in front of the class, she would take us individually into the hallway to test. I would have failed every time if I had to speak in front of the class. Mrs. Bainbridge knew that her job was to teach us, not to humiliate us. I think some teachers have forgotten this fact.
I will never forget the lessons I learn from Mrs. Bainbridge. Both educationally and spiritually. That year was a pivotal time in my life; my parents divorced soon after and my life was never the same again. Without the loving care of a teacher like Mrs. Bainbridge to get me through it all things might have been very different.
I still remember some of the Swahili that she taught us that year and so many other things. Not because she had a Doctorate in Education, but because she cared. It is often said, “students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I am proof of that fact.
I waited almost 20 years after high school to finally follow my calling to teach, but when I got there I knew it was the place that I belonged. It was the place that Mrs. Bainbridge had prepared me for so many years ago. She didn’t know it then, but her love and support made me a more loving and supportive teacher today. I wish everyone had the experience of learning with a Mrs. Bainbridge of their own at some point in their lives.
Teaching is calling and should come from the heart before it comes from a book!