This weekend my alma mater celebrates fifty years of existence. As much as I wanted to be there to sing in the alumni choir before the football game last night, and to run a 5K through my old school stomping grounds today (seriously - the run is through the actual halls of the school!), I think the part I most wanted to be there for was to see a couple of teachers who really made a difference to me.
I could write separate posts for each of the 5 teachers who come to mind as the most influential in my high school years (and maybe I will) but right now I want to tell you about Ms. La Fleur, my Spanish teacher.
Yes, I took five years of honors Spanish. You would never know it now for my lack of ability, but thanks to Ms. La Fleur I am still totally fluent in reciting the basic conversation we practiced daily, the pledge of allegiance and, my favorite, The Birthday Song. Not your typical birthday song, but one that is called Las Mañanitas. Man, did I love that woman.
I was first introduced to Ms. La Fleur as a gawky, shy 8th grader who was bussed over to the high school every morning for Spanish classes. She immediately started calling everyone in the class Lovies and Dearhearts, but it wasn't strange. Not to me. I loved every ounce of exuberance and happiness that just seemed to radiate off of her.
She kept track of every student's birthday in every one of her classes and brought in a white bakery bag, folded over twice, if it was your special day. Inside was a delicious cake donut with white frosting and rainbow sprinkles complete with a single candle poked into one side. And with much fanfare, she would parade that bag over to your desk and announce to the class, "Dearhearts! Today is (Birthday Person)'s birthday! Let us sing The Birthday Song!" as she lit the candle. At first she sang a glorious solo, loud and strong, while dancing around the desk with a huge smile on her face, skirt twirling. As the year progressed and others picked up on the song, she would insist on everyone else joining in as well.
Many people hated their birthdays in Spanish class, or at least pretended to. Not so with me! I looked forward to it so much that I took Spanish for 5 years, even though I couldn't grasp the language. You've got to love a teacher like Ms. La Fleur. She really and truly cared, and we all knew it.
She understood the power of the phrase, "It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice."
Though young at heart, I would guess that Ms. La Fleur was probably in her 50's back in my high school days so I can only imagine her age now. And as much as I would have loved to see her again this weekend, maybe it's best to remember her in a flowing skirt, dancing around my desk, making me feel like the most important Dearheart in the room.