An Ode to Miss Quill

As I continue to kick some butt in my classroom, and in my own life, I am thankful for my friends who are coming to my rescue. Thank you, Empress.

This post is written for all the great teachers out there, that go beyond their job description. Teachers like you make a difference every day, to the kind of kid like me, that I used to be. Thank you for changing lives.


English is not my first language: Spanish is. I was in grade school in the early 60's, where a non English speaking child was placed in what was then called "Special C" classes, short for Special Curriculum.

I spent my day in a classroom with all types of kids, with all types of needs. I did a lot of playing, mostly, with Colorforms. I loved Colorforms. I had taught myself to read at home, with my grandmother's Spanish books, but there were no books in Spanish at school, so I colored a lot. A lot.

There were numbers, math. That I could do. Math, I was good at math. You didn't need English to do math. My days were spent with unusual children, with me, at an open floor space--there were no desks--playing with Colorforms, and doing random math, and coloring. I went through coloring pages like popcorn.

Aside from not speaking English as well as the others, l also had odd lunches: papaya, mango, goat cheese. I was odd. No other way to put it. But, also, smart. What I did not know yet, was that I was smart.

My kindergarten teacher was happy with me, quietly in the corner. Ditto for the first grade teacher. I never caused anyone any problems, any extra work, any anything for anybody. I cannot remember the names of my kindergarten or first grade teachers.

Then, in second grade, I met Miss Quill.

Miss Quill.

I could say her name forever. From the beginning, my new second grade teacher, looked at me. She actually made eye contact with me on a daily basis. Her eyes were green, a hazelly green. I can still picture them. Miss Quill brought in books for me, she brought in math games for me, she read to me. She even came to my house to pick me up to take me to the library, where we'd pick out books in English for me.

She would have me over to her house, where she'd spend time with me doing art projects.

For Christmas, she gave me my very favorite Beatle, in stuffed doll form. It was Paul.

I grow misty eyed when I think of Miss Quill. Of course, the year ended, and I went on to third grade. I don't remember the teacher's name. All would have been the same for me again, with me in a corner, quietly doing math problems except that this time, I started out the school year with a head full of English books that had been read to me, memories of trips to the library, and art projects hanging on the walls of my bedroom.

I was sent for placement testing at the start of the school year, and in one day, I was pulled out of the "Special C" classroom and placed into the gifted/talented classroom. This was the 60's, there were no IEP's, no parent/teacher conference; things were just done. Like that.

I don't know what happened to Miss Quill after second grade. I just can't remember. But, Miss Quill? I love you. Do you know that? I wish I had known to tell you. I'm telling you now, and I'm hoping the universe somehow gets this message to you: I love you.


Alexandra said...

What a joy it is to be here.

That's all I am able to say.

Thank you so much. And I am so happy to know you, Vodkamom.

Mama K said...

I hope it gets there too. Great story!

Joanie said...

THAT is a wonderful story! I'm so glad there are teacher like Miss Quill and Vodkamom who give a damn and make sure everyone is learning!
Kudos to you, Vodkamom and Miss Quill, wherever you are!

Vodka Mom said...

and you know what? I have two new ELL children who do NOT speak English.
The principal told me last year, "Vodka, the reason I put these children in your room is because you are so GREAT with them." I cried.

And now, after this reminder, I am going to take my little darlings under my wing and help them fly.

Anne said...

RE: Labels.... unless your frank shouts OUT LOUD, across the room, in the middle of your lesson, after hearing a burp....

Please tell me that did NOT come out of your BUTT....

Then my frank still tops your frank. :-)

I love that you love frank ~ even though he is so, so, so, unique. ... I get that.

smalltownme said...

Thank you, Empress. This brought back a very vivid memory for me, of changing to a new school halfway through first grade...I'm going to think about this memory for a bit and blog later.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this touched my heart so deeply. I was an ESL child and I will never ever forget my ESL tutor, Mrs. K. :)

jillsmo said...

OH my god I love this. I love this so much.

Varda said...

Lovely post, Empress, thank you for sharing this. I, too am so glad for Miss Quill, grateful that she looked past the quiet surface and saw the great spark within. Love to you!

Trish@Show and Tell said...

Beautiful post, Empress. Thank you.
My daughter had a very special Grade 1 teacher last year (for different reasons than yours, but no less significant). My daughter still cries every now and again because this woman is no longer her teacher.
A special teacher can absolutely change a child's world.


Anonymous said...

This is why you're guest posts are everywhere.

God bless Ms. Quill and all the great teachers out there. I truly believe it's a calling.

duffylou said...

Isn't it great to look back and remember a turning point in our life?
Even if it comes years later, that ah ha moment is still as satisfying.

Your story was very touching.

Kelly said...

I love this! I hope someday you find Miss Quill and are able to let her know how deeply she impacted your life! I think we all have a teacher like that in our lives! At least I hope so....

Anonymous said...

Love this story! I had a Miss. Quill once, and I will never forget her!
It is those kinds of teachers that truly have the heart for the job!

RottenMom said...

I love Vodkamom.
I love Empress.

And now I love Miss Quill.

Megan (Best of Fates) said...

Miss Quill sounds like a miraculous lady - I'm so glad you met her!

VandyJ said...

Good teachers make all the difference!

Unknown said...

This post and Vodka Mom's comment afterwards made me tear up. Wonderful!

Only You said...

Oh my, Alexandra, perhaps we were separated at birth. I went to school in the 70s and I was in bilingual classes until 3rd grade. Then they moved me into the advanced/gifted class.

I too was silent and voiceless but was transformed because of my second grade teacher. Lucky for me, we are still in touch. She just sent me a birthday present last week! My 38th birthday present from her...yes, she has not missed a single birthday since I turned 8.

Can you find Ms. Quill again? I had a client once who did a search for his teacher decades afterwards, simply because he needed to say thank you to her in person.

I loved your story, and I know there is more. Thank goodness for these people in our lives.

Sodermoto said...

That is always great to hear a story about a teacher that changed a life. (I know they all do, but sometimes I think it is amazing that it really made a HUGE difference in someone's life) What a great post!

Rebecca said...

Great teachers create great people. Glad she inspired you.

Tracie Nall said...

So amazing. What a wonderful teacher. It is clear that she had a passion for her job, and what a blessing that is.

Liza said...

What a tremendous story about a tremendous teacher. Over the years, I have written one note to a teacher who demonstrated over-the-top dedication in my daughter's classroom. Our girl will graduate this year and I am formulating another letter to send at year end to one more amazing soul who has made my daughter's high school years a joy. How can people not understand or appreciate the work of good teachers?

Mrs. Tuna said...

making a stop over based on the Empress' suggestion. We all have that one special teacher that took an interest in us and made a difference. Mine, Mr. Beuno.

Ms. G said...

This is a wonderful story. Thank God for those very special teachers that really look! I bet she knows.

Even if we spoke different languages, I would have sat and colored and played Colorforms with you as a child. I loved those things too! Do you remember how they smelled? Sometimes I crave it.

Everyday Goddess said...

What a wonderful teacher! I'm sure she knew you loved her, bless her.

Lynn MacDonald said...

I love Mrs. Quill too...because she taught you to write, and that is a gift we all can share! Lovely post!

Sharon Rose said...

Mrs. Quill had the gift of discovering greatness! You were there already. But we may have never known how incredible you are without her help!

Thank you, Mrs. Quill.

And to Vodkamom, those children are so blessed to be in your class. They will fly before they leave you at the end of the year!

Christy said...

Wow what an amazing post and story. I only recently found the Empress, and am so glad I did. She writes so richly, I honestly had no idea her first language isn't English. Puts native speakers like me to shame!

Joey Lynn Resciniti said...

I think that's the whole point of putting up with the kids at school, just the slim hope that I'll make a difference with one of them. Hurray for Miss Quill!

Kimberly said...

Yup...any person can teach....but it takes a special person to take the time to learn the strengths of their students and to help those strengths in them flourish.
I had a teacher like that.
Mrs. Lovell.
Grade 8.

jessica said...

That is beautiful! and while I have many students who still come to visit, I ran into one today who had no clue who I was! I can tell his mom didn't know my name either because she told him "it's your old pre-k teacher!" I remember his first and last name AND remember that he was the "A" in our Wednesday craziness known as "S.T.A.N" That was the day that all of our most "spirited" boys were there together every week. oy.

jessica said...

A story that might cheer you up:
My 7 yr. old asked if I would play school with her. She said she'd be the teacher because "I want to grow up and be just like you, mommy!"
I actually took a breath, closed my eyes and told myself to enjoy the moment. As my heart skipped a beat and a tear came to my eye, she added, "except for the hair."

dusty earth mother said...

Oh, Empress, that was lovely. Can we find Mrs. Quill? Can we??

Kimberly said...

Oh, if only every child could find their own version of Mrs. Quill. Great post...we never know exactly how much we change someone's life with a little extra kindness.

Sherri said...

Empress, this post really touched me. I see kids like this at school, trying to find their way, and you hope and pray that someone caring gives them the tools and the confidence to help them find their way.

And Mrs. Quill certainly did.

I've seen VodkaMom on twitter, but never visited here! Thanks for bringing us over.

noexcuses said...

What a touching post! It's women like you that make me want to be a better person. I live each day trying to make a difference for just one person, for just a few seconds. The joy is incomparable, is it not?

Thank you Mrs. Quill, for reaching out and making a difference for a very special lady!

Bibliomama said...

Teachers get so much crap chucked at them. Thank goodness there are people like you with stories like this.

Captain Dumbass said...

That was a great story. That was a great teacher.

The Flying Chalupa said...

Good golly, what a name! A teacher named 'Miss Quill?' It doesn't get much better than that. A good teacher is worth his/her weight in chalk dust. Or is it text books? All I know is, that lady put you on your path to greatness, A!

But I can't believe your favorite wasn't George. Dear, adorable George.

ps - hi Vodkamom! I'll be back...(cue Terminator voice)

Lynn said...

Love you, Ms. ESL Vodkamom!
Hang in there, Girl!
I had one or two of those tearful days when I was teaching!

Leighann said...

you never really know the effect you're having on someone else's life and hopefully now Mrs.Quill does.

Macey said...

Oh my. This is a FANTASTIC post.

Mrs.Mayhem said...

Teachers make such a difference.

I remember my son complaining that his kindergarten teacher never called on him. After speaking with her, it was clear that she saw his hearing and made a snap judgment about his abilities.

Luckily he was blessed with excellent first and second grade teachers.

Now in 6th grade, he is thriving in the gifted program.

carrie said...

I shouldn't have read that while PMSing--fighting off tears right now. Great story, and it makes me think of a teacher I had in 3rd grade that asked me to help her clean up her classroom over the summer. My sister had just been in a serious car accident that left her boyfriend paralyzed, my other sister had gotten kicked out of the house, and my oldest sister had gotten married the year before and had moved out. She somehow knew I could use a buddy without my parents telling her anything. I appreciated the extra attention and the specialness that I felt by being asked to help her out. Only as an adult and a teacher did I realize what that was all about and I really appreciate(d) the opportunity to get out of the house and feel special that summer! Kudos to you and Mrs. Quill and all the other teachers that reach out to the ones that need them most.

Unknown said...

Awesome Empress!
But you already knew that :)

parenting ad absurdum said...

Empress - what a great story - and a stuffed Paul?? I can't imagine anything greater. And Vodka Mom - you had me at, you know, Vodka. Thanks for spreading the love :).


mypixieblog said...

What a sweet and wonderful post. I'll never forget those teachers who taught me the most invaluable lessons at such a young age. Miss Quill sounds like a pretty amazing woman, and I love that she shared her favorite Beatles doll with you :)

JennyBean said...

What a beautiful post.

julie said...

Loved this.

My teacher was Mr. Litten. He read something I'd written out loud to the class. Then he pulled me aside and said, "If you can write like this now, there's no telling what you will do in your future."

I never forgot those words.
And now I'm a writer.

And also? I was a teacher for 16 years, just hoping I could make a difference in a few kids' lives like he did for me.

So thank you for this beautiful tribute to teachers.

Unknown said...

I enjoyed it a lot!


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