I have often used this platform as a way to communicate my love and appreciation for my former teachers and coaches.
If I had to pick one favorite year of school from pre-school through grad school, it would be Mrs. Nina Lindsey’s 4th grade class. Mrs. Nina Giles (who will always be Mrs. Lindsey to me) was my 4th grade teacher at Whitmell Elementary.
I remember her upstairs room in the front of Whitmell Elementary so well. The large windows overlooked the grassy oval field, home of grade-level picnics and balloon releases. A large bookshelf jutted out between those windows and a miniature replica of Columbus’ ship the Niña, which shared a name with our beloved teacher (same spelling, different pronunciation), rested on the top.
What is it that made this year so special? It was Mrs. Lindsey or Mom Lindsey as many often called her and the relationships she built with her “munchkins”. Mrs. Lindsey believed in me. She believed in each of us.
The centerpiece of this year was our journals (and I am so thankful that I saved mine). We wrote to prompts occasionally, but what I remember most was free writing. More than my entries, I remember Mrs. Lindsey’s responses in that perfect cursive that all elementary school teachers seemed to possess. She used this space to encourage us, build relationships, and even gently admonish us for the occasional immature behavior. Mrs. Lindsey was a teacher that you never, ever wanted to disappoint, and if you did once, you wouldn’t likely do it again. And even though I misspelled every third word, she never marked a single spelling or grammatical mistake. She just wanted us to write and think! I know writing time would not have been nearly as fun for me if every time I got my journal back it was covered in corrections.
These journals were so special, that she encouraged us to write in them over the summer. And because I loved Mrs. Lindsey and because she sparked a love of writing in me, I did just that. She wrote us a letter that summer to encourage us to continue to write in the journals and give them to her at open house the following year. And guess what? She responded to them! She read and responded to each entry from my rising-fifth-grade-self about my vacation to Virginia Beach, the rainy summer, and my softball games.
Mrs. Lindsey seemed to effortlessly conduct class, sitting with her ram-rod straight posture perched on her stool. She would read to us, sharing stories of Super Fudge and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. She connected us with the past and the present. We took a field trip to Natural Bridge, watched the presidential inauguration on a tiny television, and followed the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery.
Mrs. Lindsey would often lace up her tennis shoes (with her print dresses) and head out to play kickball with us during recess or sit under the big shady tree on the playground with a stack of our journals.
She gave us opportunities for creative expression and even had the class perform a play I wrote called Clementella, a western Cinderella. We studied folk tales and made Pecos Bill Chili and Johnny Appleseed Baked Apples. We had music time with Mrs. Lindsey’s record player. I distinctly remember Raffi’s “Apples and Bananas” vowel song, “Deep in the Jungle,” and records of poets reading their poetry.
Now, as an educator, I realize that Mrs. Lindsey was using excellent classroom management strategies implementing student voice, choice, hands-on learning, and real-world connections. When I respond to my 11th graders journals, somewhere in the back of my mind Mrs. Lindsey is there as a model. When I was in fourth grade, I didn’t know I wanted to be a teacher. I boldly proclaimed in one of my journal entries that “I wanted to be a pharmacist, but only part-time so I could be a writer too.” Even so, teachers like Mrs. Lindsey in fourth grade, and Miss Dodd in second grade, showed me what it meant to love children, while also having high expectations for their performance.
It is hard to fathom the hundreds, or likely thousands, of students that you touched and impacted. We were all blessed to have you. My heart goes out to you and your family during the difficult days ahead. I truly thank God for you and will pray for you during this time.
Did you also have Mrs. Lindsey as a teacher? Please share your memories here in the comments, and I will be sure that she gets to see them. If you are interested in helping the family with a donation, see Megan’s fundraiser here.