My second grade teacher. I loved her.

Second grade was the only year I spent in Catholic elementary school. I’m still not sure why; maybe it’s because it’s the year I made my First Communion. Maybe there was some weird thing with my mom that she sent me there. Don’t know. The rest of my elementary years were spent at Jefferson, a public school attached to Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. Gotta love small town USA and their separation of church and state.

So I was the proverbial fish out of water in second grade. Not knowing anyone, I didn’t have many friends. I was already painfully shy, and found myself on the swings—alone—most of the time at recess. I don’t have a ton of memories from that year, but I have a few. The headband my mom made me for my first communion; one of those hard, pink, plastic numbers from the store with large fabric flowers sewn to it so the pink didn’t show, is one of them.

John DeWitt kissing me on the cheek behind the bushes at recess is another.

Image credit: Holy Family Elementary School, Hays, KS

Reading stories to the tape recorder, for the teacher and the Kindergarten students to listen to, was a favorite. I thought I was really something special when Mrs. Dinkel told the class that she wanted them to listen to one of the recordings, because it was an example of how she wanted the stories to be read., and it was my voice on that tape. It did my validation-hungry, first-born, Type A heart good to know she approved.

The peanut butter on my finger memory, though, is my favorite. I don’t know why we were eating peanut butter in class, but I remember everyone forming a line, with Mrs. Dinkel at the front, and getting peanut butter on an apple slice or a saltine. I agonized over that choice; I’d never had either, and neither sounded good. But I had to pick one, and slowly the line inched up and there I stood, staring at Mrs. Dinkel holding a butter knife in one hand and a jar of Jiffy in the other, waiting for me to say just one word. Apple or cracker?

I croaked out ‘nothing’. I expected her to send me back to my seat, sans peanut butter, because I didn’t follow the rules. But not Mrs. Dinkel. Without missing a beat, she grabbed my hand, smeared a huge glob of Jiffy on my index finger and smiled at me.

She was—still is—one of the kindest women I’ve ever known. When my cousin, Curtis, was battling leukemia and was too sick to go to school, she tutored him. When he died, she took me in, inviting me to their family farm and giving me a soft place to be with other people, where I was safe in my sadness but reminded that life goes on.

Mrs. Dinkel has done so many things through the years that didn’t affect me directly; she works with unwed mothers, serves at church, teaches and is a mom and grandma to her own family. No matter how long it’s been since I’ve seen her, she remembers my face and greets me with a genuine smile, happy eyes and a great big hug.

I’ve been blessed with many amazing teachers in my life, both in and out of the classroom.  She was the first.

I'm linking up today with Mama Kat's Losin It's Writer's Workshop, and my post was inspired by option number 5: your second grade teacher.