Favorite Teacher . . .

Okay, FINE! Facebook DOES provide value - I found a
picture of my favorite teacher drinking a beer.
When I was eight years old, my father got a new job. He had been the Superintendent of a small school district in Upstate New York following years in the classroom. I was too young to really "get" it but I gather he was just not a huge fan of having so much removal from what he loved about being an educator - the kids - and that he had a hostile board and some difficult teachers that added to the frustration. Long story long, it was decided to be in the best interest of the entire family that we move.

So - we did. The summer between third and fourth grade (I had turned nine in the meantime) we packed it up and headed to Central New York and the place I consider "home" when people ask. And I HATED it! HAY-TED!

Now . . . fast forward a decade or two and I'll figure out that I had significant anxiety and OCD issues as a kid and the notion of moving and changing houses, schools, friends, zip codes, bedroom placement in the house, and everything else was just tooooo much for me (I remember feeling physically ill the first time we went to our new church and I discovered it was carpeted (that's a true story)). BUT my father, being the elementary school principal had a plan . . . he'd put me in the room with the fourth grade teacher that was "best aligned" to what I needed (yes - this will shock you - principals pull favorites for their own kids). Was he right? Heck no.

I hated (hay-ted) my fourth grade teacher more than I hated moving and the carpet at the church . . . and padded pews. Seriously? G-d gave his only son so Catholics could sit on cushions? I digress . . . I endured the year and did the best I could (as did that teacher - I didn't make it easy) and my parents, much to their credit, were amazingly supportive and encouraging and went way out of their way (almost to the detriment of my brothers (9 and 4 respectively)) to make me comfortable.

So fourth grade ended and I got ready for fifth grade (which is really awesome when you think about misery and loathing and the imminent onset of puberty) and I showed up on the first day to find Mrs. Satterly as my teacher. Now I KNEW Mrs. Satterly by this point. Technically I knew her daughter, Barb.

You see when you're the principal in a small town in Upstate New York you hire your teacher's daughters to babysit your three kids and they give positive feedback despite the fact that your sons are MONSTERS to them! We had already gone through Mrs. LaFrance's, Mrs. Walpole's, Mrs. Morse's, and Mrs. Ludlow's daugthers (and by "went through" I mean Heidi LaFrance required surgery from where I blew her knee out chasing her around the house) before Barb(ie) Satterly showed up on a Friday night. She was amazing. She had brothers - she was not shocked. She was not afraid of the Amore boys. She once punched me in the leg so hard it bruised almost immediately and I limped for two weeks. She was AWESOME! Anywho - I was super excited, based on how much we loved Barb, that I would be with her mom for a year. How much different could she be? Apple/tree - right?

He's what you need to know about Mrs. Satterly - she is a white haired saint. Figuratively (the white hair part is and was literal). I had never before, nor never since (in the dozen or so more years of formal education I went through) had a teacher that got me so excited about school and not just the sitting in the classroom and reading and crunching numbers and learning about science and where babies come from (5th grade = sex ed) but SCHOOL! The social part, the challenge part, the building and respecting boundaries part, the girls-sure-are-purdy-part. And she did it all with style and grace and she was always firm yet kind.

I don't remember any specific moment, hour, or day in Mrs. Satterly's classroom. I don't know exactly what about being in her room made me so happy or whatever. I don't really remember much about fifth grade at all (except, you know, the sex ed part) but I know that I was released from therapy by the end of fifth grade.

I stopped crying every day. I made friends with kids who would be my best friends for the next eight years (and some are still friend today). I was able to stop being such a drain on my parents that my brothers could actually get some attention. I discovered a love of reading that I still have room in my heart for today.

I don't know if Mrs. Satterly remembers me nearly as fondly as I do her (I saw her last fall at my brother Ryan's wedding and we chatted for just a few moments). She probably was a favorite to MOST of her students. I will always think of Mrs. Satterly when I think about great teachers. She was wise, caring, attentive, boundary setting, and did a good enough job teaching us that I can't remember anything specific other than the love of learning she imparted.

THANK YOU, Mrs. Satterly, for being so friggin' great and for sharing your daughter and her killer Charlie Horse talents with us, too.