The SBS Program Insight this week looked at how teachers had changed the course of people’s lives and many spoke of a particular moment when a specific comment from a teacher initiated this. The panellists on the program all had in common that they were disengaged with school and that certain teachers turned this around for them. It was heartwarming to hear their stories and reminded me of many of my own wonderful teachers but one in particular.
I was not a troublemaker at school, and for those of you who know me I’m sure you will attest to this as I don’t like breaking rules! I was certainly not disengaged at school; I absolutely loved it. I remember even in Prep how much I enjoyed trying to get my letters as perfect as my teacher’s were on the board. I also loved reading books and writing stories from a young age. At about the age of eight I started to write poetry. I can’t quite remember what instigated this interest but I do remember being fascinated by words that rhymed and writing lists of words that rhymed together.
In Grade Four and Five I was lucky enough to have the most wonderful teacher. Her name was Mrs. Edmends. She was a motherly looking woman, round and soft like her personality. She had short fair curlyish hair and wore round glasses on her nose. I remember her cheeks were always bright red. She told us that was because when she was younger someone had told her to wash her face with a scalding hot face washer to keep it clean and so she had broken capillaries in her cheeks. She wasn’t conventionally beautiful but her warm heart made her so.
I can’t remember any special, out of the ordinary thing Mrs.Edmends did in her lessons that made her such an amazing teacher. There was no new-fangled technology or enticing games and such that teachers (like myself) try to use to engage students today. She taught in the old school way but I believe it was her genuine interest in us all as individuals that showed that she cared. I feel like she really listened to us, respected us, and didn’t look down on us despite being in charge of us. She always tried to explain things if we asked, even how she had used IVF to have her only child. She didn’t just brush questions aside because they were too hard or we weren’t old enough to understand.
One day we got our writing books back and underneath where I had written a poem, My Dreamplace, Mrs.Edmends had commented, ‘I’d like you to read this out to the class, Katrina’. That was the moment for me. A bit of fear, adrenaline, so much pride that she had noticed something I loved doing, and from then on encouraging me to send things into competitions and keep writing.
Many years on after primary school, I saw Mrs.Edmends at a friend’s twenty first birthday and I got to introduce her to my partner (now husband) as my favourite teacher. She told him how I was lover of books like she was. It was so great to give her a hug and tell her she was the best teacher. She had had some health complications since I had left primary school and unfortunately within a couple of years of seeing her, she passed away from cancer while I was living overseas in Japan. I’ve always thought I would dedicate my first published book to Mrs.Edmends. I’m still working on that. Hopefully sometime in the near future I will be able to put her name in print with mine.
Thanks Mrs.Edmends for shaping me as a person and a writer. Thanks for believing in me.