She looked like the stereotypical farm wife--housedress, Keds tennis shoes on her feet, no frills, just her wedding ring and a handkerchief. She loved deer hunting in the fall and "her kids" the rest of the year. She always had a smile on her face and I don't know if I ever heard her raise her voice. She didn't need to.
I received the email that she passed away on Saturday. Mrs. J, as she was fondly referred to, wasn't the world's best teacher--but she was one of the most loved teachers I have ever worked with. Young adults in their 30's remember sitting in her class, vying for the infamous sour balls she kept in her room. (I'm sure she must have owned stock in the company). Even when she was a sub in her later years, there were always sour balls for the good, the bad, the loud, the lonely. I'm not sure what it took exactly to be rewarded with a sour ball, but you felt special when you earned one.
I first met Mrs. J in about 1988, when I took a long term sub position in sixth grade. She had the room across the hall from me. I loved hearing the learning and the fun coming from her classroom. Especially considering I was teaching from the notecards in the box on the desk, a sure sign that the teacher I was teaching for never changed her lesson plans. Mrs. J always had practical advice, and she made sure I had back up when I needed it.
While she loved all her students, boys seemed to be her favorite. And they loved her. My oldest son's Facebook status on Sunday, "Goodbye Mrs. J. You're one of the reasons I want to be a teacher." And it's true. His love of history and his wanting to be a teacher are a direct result of her teaching in fifth grade.
A colleague posted, "When people ask me who my favorite teacher of all time is, the answer is so simple for me. No doubt in my mind Mrs. J was the one. She gave me my nickname of Rah back in 5th grade and it has stuck with me through the years. You have touched so many lives and will be missed by so many!"
Mrs. J had to retire when her husband became ill. She wasn't ready to go. We all knew that. After he passed away, she came back to sub and continued until about five years ago. I don't know how old she was, but she continued teaching long after most would have. And she will be missed...