Saturday, June 9, 2018

Mrs. Woodham

With schools closing for summer, I thought this excerpt from my latest project would be timely.  Thank you to all those teachers taking a much deserved break for the next few weeks!

We all have stories of how the words or comments of a teacher, a close relative or a friend have impacted us during our early years.  That impact often follows us through our lifetime.

My second grade teacher, Mrs. Woodham, was a kind, tenderhearted lady.  I can still see her slightly frazzled hairstyle and that broad, welcoming smile that she seemed to flash so often.  

She was no push over!  We all understood that when Mrs. Woodham said, “Quiet!” she meant now.  But we also felt her joy and sensed her love for us as students.  She was glad to be a professional teacher.

If someone struggled, she knelt beside their desk and worked more closely with them a while.  I remember feeling her soft touch on my head or shoulder as a point of encouragement.  You see, I was one of those students who struggled.  Math was my nemesis.  But I came out of second grade feeling that I could conquer the struggle. 

In fact, it was Mrs. Woodham who first put the dream in my heart for becoming a teacher.  Her words of encouragement made me believe I could not only learn to add and subtract, I could one day teach others to do the same. 

Many times she would have me sit at her desk with a notepad if she stepped out for some reason.  As a class, we would each be doing our seat work.  It was my job to write down the name of any student who talked or got out of line in any way.

I’ll never forget the day I was the one who stepped out of line.  

Mrs. Woodham had put me at her desk with the notepad and whispered to me that she had to go to the office.  “I’ll be right back, Sheri.  Keep an eye on things.”

Apparently, I had become too comfortable in my role as classroom monitor.  A couple of students raised their hands to indicate they needed to use the pencil sharpener.  I nodded giving them permission to move from their desks.   A few began to whisper.  A couple more began giggling about something. 

In my most serious seven year old voice I called out, “Quiet, everyone!”  My imitation of Mrs. Woodham fell short and resulted in a ripple of laughter.  I had to laugh myself, it sounded so funny. 

I must have been a ham early in life because in a flash I found myself standing beside the desk of a friend doing my best to imitate Mrs. Woodham.  “The next student to speak is going to be disciplined, do you hear me?!”  I mimicked her scowl and wagged my tiny finger at the class in warning.  

We all burst out in loud laughter.

But the laughing halted immediately when we heard the original, “Quiet!” resounding from the back of the room.  Mrs. Woodham had walked in on my little show and she was not happy.  I don’t remember my exact punishment but writing about that moment still causes me to cringe a bit.

How did I have such a disappointing experience with her and still come out of that year believing Mrs. Woodham loved me?   It’s because she spoke words of affirmation daily.  Not just to me but to everyone in our class. 

“You CAN do this, Jeffery.  Don’t let it beat you.”

“I see how hard you’re trying, Marcia.  That’s important.”

“Judy, I’m proud of your effort on that homework.  Good job!”

I don’t know about any of those other second graders but her words were life to one little girl with brunette hair and slightly crooked teeth.  She enriched my life and used her words to paint a picture of possibility for me.  

I’ll forever be grateful.

What was the name of your favorite teacher?  What grade were you in when you encountered them?


  1. My first grade teacher, Miss Ranson, was the most glamorous person I had met up to that time in my short life. She was a newly minted teacher bursting with enthusiasm and energy. I will remember always her quiet encouragement when I struggled and her sincere "Atta girl" when success was mine. I remember crying when spring break rolled around and I wouldn't see her for two whole weeks. Sadly, I never saw or heard of her again after the June day in 1969 when I promoted to second grade. Funny how clear those memories still are today.

    1. What a lovely description, Kristy. These are the stories that keep teachers coming back year after year.

  2. Like you, my favorite teacher was my second grade teacher. It just so happened that she was also my dad's cousin so I had known her all my life. We lived in a small town, I think there were 4 second grade teachers at the time. Back then, you were assigned your teacher based on what level you were on. Mrs. Francis, aka Lillie, had the higher achieving students and I was assigned to her. She never showed favoritism to me. Mrs. Francis never had children of her own so her students were her kids. She taught until they made her retire I think and then taught piano lessons for many years, only stopping when her husband's health failed and he went into the nursing home. She spent nearly every day with him at the nursing home - she didn't drive so my dad and a woman from church took turns dropping her off around 8 and picking her up at 4. Lillie passed away a little over 5 years ago at the age of 103.

    1. What a testimony to the blessings of being from a small town. I can only imagine how many lives Mrs. Francis touched during her years of teaching. Wow!