Teacher appreciation: Mrs. Reed imparted a love of language

Stock image from Pixabay.

My eighth-grade teacher at St. Francis de Sales School in Newark would have loved hydroxychloroquine.

Not because of the current political debate, or because she would pretend to know better than the scientists. 

“Now THAT’S a good spelling bee word,” Mrs. Reed would say.

As teachers contemplate their future in the digital and in-person education world, with uncertain funding sources, Kathleen Reed is the teacher that comes to mind. 

She was a teacher for approximately 150 years (I’m estimating), and taught me and all five of my siblings among the thousands of other students who passed through St. Francis De Sales Elementary in Newark.

She taught language arts, and she taught it her way. She didn’t take nonsense, but she rewarded effort and respect.

I didn’t learn how to take a standardized test in her class, I learned what mothers from other countries did throughout history. I love hominy to this day because of the interactive (and food-filled) unit she did on indigenous Americans.

She did what teachers are being forced to do even more these days; be creative to appeal to a group of students that are more and more inclined to focus on anything else. She recognized the students that needed more help, and those that weren’t getting enough from the lesson plan. She proved that when she handed me “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” and wouldn’t listen to my complaints about how thick the book was. 

My love of reading and the beginnings of my journalism career started with her stubbornness.

But it was the extracurriculars for which I hold her on a higher pedestal. She was the head of spelling bee training at school, and I watched her take several students to the state bee. She encouraged me to be a part of it, and it brought me into a world that has now become the equivalent of football or soccer to those that are athletically inclined.

The no-nonsense attitude continued in afternoon sessions studying the Scripps National Spelling Bee lists. But, when the bee happened to land on my birthday, bee-shaped birthday balloons showed up at the end-of-competition lunch afterward. The school didn’t hold a banquet. Mrs. Reed picked up the tab.

When Mrs. Reed died, the church had trouble finding enough chairs for the rush of people who attended the funeral. The messages attached to her obituary filled six pages, with stories of her impact and unwavering reputation. It was a loss the entire community felt.

There’s a reason teachers choose to do what they do, and students remember the ones that took the extra steps, without extra compensation.

It’s the Mrs. Reeds of the world that we’re putting back into the schools to make sure students social distance and to do more with less. It’s the Mrs. Reeds who are pleading with local and state leadership for help, and the federal government for a boost.

They’ll show up to do the job, because the students matter most. Repaying them should be our job.