College classes resumed for me this past week. Although I do not buy a new dress for the first day of school anymore, I do get excited about the beginning of a new academic year! I bring hope for inspiring my students and for making a difference in their lives. I recognize that the impact a teacher makes on a student’s life may not happen for years; in fact it may not even happen in a teacher’s lifetime. That notion was clearly illustrated to me earlier this summer.

My mother was a school teacher for 35 years. During the first five years of her career, she taught in rural schools. Yes—the one room school that could have students in each of the eight grades. I met students from her 1930s and 1940s classes at her 90thbirthday celebration last year. However, one gentleman made his first appearance this summer at mother’s memorial visitation. As he came through the receiving line, he acknowledged that we would not know who he was! He introduced himself as a second grader from Miss Rosemary’s class at Gravel Hill School in 1937! We were dumbfounded! He went on to share what a difference she had made in his life. He followed her career in later years, but lost track after her retirement in 1989. What he loved about Miss Rosemary was that she made learning fun. Someone joked and asked if he had any outstanding homework to deliver?

Later when I went through my mother’s personal belongings, I found a photo album of her early teaching career—the kind of album with black paper pages and pictures mounted with black stickers.  She had several pages of pictures of her students in the 1936-37 class. The students’ names were beautifully penned in white under each photo. There was Hubert! And there was Hubert again as a third grader in 1937-38! I could just feel how proud my mother had been of her students from the meticulous way she had put the album together.

Days later the family was still commenting about this dear sweet man who was compelled to meet his favorite teacher’s family and tell them what she meant to him. As I spent a six-week period in my mother’s community following her passing, I discovered other Huberts! Whether I was in the bank, post office, grocery store, law office or library, former students conveyed to me how much they adored her. A great lady or a grand lady were descriptions I heard over and over again. They could recall in vivid detail what it was like to be in her class years ago whether it was the sixties, seventies or eighties. The comments had a common theme: she treated you fair but firm, she made learning fun, no one was better than anyone else and she brought us treats.  

In my visits over the years, I often witnessed former students interacting with my mother. They included:  those who held the door for her in a store, those who stopped by her table in a restaurant and those who just went out of their way to say “Hi, Mrs. Mohr, How are you doing?” She had made a lasting impression, and I am certain a lasting impact on their lives. Although she could not always remember their names, they certainly had not forgotten her name! Just how many students in our town of 2,160 she taught is uncertain. But I speculate it is a high number since we could not go anywhere without running into one of her students or the parent of one of her students.

My mother has left me some big footprints. I miss her terribly, but she was with me this week when I started my classes and will continue to be my inspiration every day when I stand before my class.  I pray my effect ripples half as far as hers!

Bountiful Blessings!