My fourth grade teacher’s name was Lavona Areghini. “Lavona from Sedona, Arizona,” she told us one day, making the room full of nine-year-olds giggle. She was an experienced teacher when I came into her grade, and her room was always warm and welcoming.
I’m sure I learned long division in her class, and I know we read some classics together. She introduced me to one of my favorite authors when she read Cynthia Voigt’s Homecoming aloud in class after lunch recess every day for a week or so. I never wanted her to stop reading. I represented our class in the school spelling bee that year. I got straight As. My handwriting looked like my dad’s.
There were probably other important facts and skills that I picked up there as well, but the most important thing I remember about that year was being loved. Mrs. Areghini loved her job, and she loved her students, and we all knew it. And that’s what good teachers are about.
The next year we faced a family tragedy, and though I had just begun fifth grade when it happened, I went back to Mrs. Areghini’s room when I needed to feel safe. In fact I spent a few months at the beginning of the year kind of in a stupor, and one day purely out of habit I returned to that place of comfort. I was so embarrassed when I realized I had stumbled back into her room, now full of a new class of fourth-graders, but she was welcoming and kind and accommodating even after I interrupted her new class — all the things I needed in that moment.
This week is Teacher Appreciation Week in the US. I’ve been appreciating teachers in my heart for the last couple of weeks, since a writer friend posted on Facebook about catching up on recording her personal history. She has been posting excerpts to keep herself motivated and working. Susan had gotten as far as fourth grade when we saw this post:
“Someone posted today how grateful they are for a teacher helping their child, and I reflected on the teachers who made a difference in my son’s life and mine. And then I realized that both of our favorite teachers of all time were our fourth grade teachers and both of them are my FB friends. My fourth grade teacher even came to one of my book launch parties! Thank you … for making such a difference in my son’s life. And thank you … for making a difference in mine.”
Our school year is almost over. The last official day for our district is May 21, but we’re leaving early to go on an epic family adventure so my daughter will finish school next week. It is time to show our gratitude and appreciation to our third grade teacher and then get ready to relax and recharge and learn by experience for a few weeks.
And then, after our family experiences of the summer, my Pioneer Girl will begin her own fourth grade adventure. We looked through my school scrapbook this afternoon, and I told her that fourth grade is a great year. I wish her success in her academics and personal growth, but most of all I wish her a teacher who loves, like Mrs. Areghini loved.