Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thank a teacher


It's hard to rank all the things I have to be thankful for, but high up there on my list is School. From my first days to just last month in a writing workshop, I've been thankful for learning and those who provide the environment for it.

When I was 6, school was my refuge from a—let's call it "less than pleasant" homelife. My teachers, probably without knowing it, served up the happiest hours of my days. My husband says that's the reason I love to give and to take classes even now.

My high school Italian teacher, Signorina Mafera, died at age 99 a couple of years ago. When she was only 94, she wanted to read my then-new periodic table mystery novels. "I need to learn more about science," she told me.

Every summer, Signorina Mafera took a class in a subject she knew nothing about, so she'd understand better what her freshmen would be going through in the fall. She never married (she hinted that there might have been a dark, handsome man on a cruise one year) and was dedicated to us. She was a very slight woman, but we knew if we failed to work as hard as she did, there'd be Dante's L'Inferno to pay. In a town where only a small fraction of the population even thought of college, and the median income was always well below the state's average, Signorina Mafera made us read La Commedia in Italian.

We stayed in touch through the years, and I know I thanked her often for her great influence on my life. I wish I could thank all the other teachers I might not have had the wisdom to acknowledge at the time.

I'll try to make up for it now by saying Thanks to dedicated teachers everywhere!

And to non-teachers as well, I wish a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!


Monica Ferris said...

I wonder if most writers don't have a Signorina Mafera in their background somewhere. Mine was Miss Mary D. Black.

That photograph of a school circa 1950: Aren't there boys in knickers standing in front of it? I wonder if it's more likely from the 20s or 30s.

Anonymous said...

...and you, my dear, are among the greatest teachers; thus, my children, my grandchildren and myself say thank you a million times over. xoxoxox

Camille Minichino said...

How kind, anonymous!

Monica, I scanned a postcard that I have. On the back it says c. 1950, but you're right -- it looks more like 20s or 30s.
It was a beautiful building, burned down years ago and was rebuilt twice, the second time at a new location.

Linda O. Johnston said...

I don't recall the name of the teacher who most inspired me to become a writer, Camille--possibly by design. She was my Advanced English teacher in high school, and she told me I was going to fail English in college because I didn't participate in class. That was because of shyness, not lack of creativity or understanding. So, I've shown her, whoever she was!

But I also had a couple of highly inspirational high school science teachers. Thank you, Mr. Ruth and Mr. Taylor.


Camille Minichino said...

I hope the forgettable teacher is now an anonymous, embarrassed fan, Linda!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

What a super post, Camille. I agree with Monica because I, too, have several Signorina Maferas (or would the plural be Maferae?) in my background. God bless all teachers, especially my younger sister Meg! She teaches art at Jupiter (FL) Elementary, and she's a role model to me about being calm and kind.

Betty Hechtman said...

I'm afraid my school experiences weren't as good as the rest of yours. My encouragement came from my father.

Camille Minichino said...

How great that you had support at home, Betty.

I hope everyone has someone to nurture her, and that we lucky ones can be that person for someone else.

[I tried to post this earlier and it didn't go through -- maybe because it's such a convoluted thought!]

Ann Parker said...

I guess I'd have to thank Professor Amer of UC Berkeley's Physics who, when I was panicking over getting a job with a Physics/English Lit background said, "You have a solid science background. And you can write. Why don't you be a science writer or editor?"
Thank you, Professor Amer, wherever you are!

Camille Minichino said...

An enlightened man, who probably had no idea how successful you'd become in both, Ann!

Rita Chiavacci said...

I, too, have a special teacher. Miss Francis, never married, and was completely devoted to her students.
I grew up in a small coal mining town in Pa. Miss Francis was loved or hated by all the students. She demanded the best from us, and would settle for nothing less. She walked the three blocks to school everyday, regardless of the weather. Her stride was measured and her posture was perfect. When she walked into the classroom, she had a presence that made you sit a little taller and keep your attention focused on the assignment.
I had the privilege of being invited to her apartment to work on my commencement address. It is one of my special memories.
Miss Francis has now passed on, but she will forever remain special in my heart. She made me challenge myself to be the best I could be.
That is the gift that I have continued to open many times during my lifetime.
Thank you for allowing me to share her with you!!

Kim said...

wow, came across this blog quite by accident, was looking for a pic of the old Liberty School for FB. But while I'm here...well I can start with thanking both my parents. My Mom taught 4th grade at the Liberty & my Dad taught business, then went on to become Asst. Princ of RHS. I loved school growing up and liked most of my teachers, but if I had to pick, I'd say John McCarron & Irene DePietro(English), they made the class interesting. I'm not a professional writer, but I blog and spend most of my time online (internet mktg) talking with "the world" - just passing thru... ♥

Kim said...

oh, I forgot to mention my last name "O'Neil", both my parents have crossed over now...jeesh, where does the time go?!!!!

Camille Minichino said...

Hi Kim,
Nice to hear from you! I love reconnecting with Revere. Do you still live there?
I graduated in '54 -- vice principal then was Mr. O'Keefe.
Very small world!


Kim said...

Camille, I wasn't even born until 1959, I'm not sure when my Dad started teaching, I think the late 50's. Then in the 60's became Admin Asst Prin, then Asst Princ in the new high school until sometime late 70's when he retired. I live in western NC, Black Mountain (15 miles east of Asheville) for the past 3 yrs now, before Londonderry, NH. In the 80's kept slowly creeping up to NH, got tired of commuting in the 90's, seems Boston's medical area never stops construction, then got disabled (back, I blame poor ergonomics in the places I've worked), and decided I needed to get out of the snow zone, although we get some here, it's minimal. This year though, the whole country looks like it's feeling the arctic wrath!