17 August 2013

School Bells Ring

It is that time of year in many areas where teachers, parents and children prepare for another school year. It was always my favorite time of the year. (Some of us are strange, but I loved school). In the memoir-writing class I facilitate, one of our topics is to write about the teachers we remember and why. I am so glad that I had the wit to thank the teacher who made the greatest difference in my life. A few years ago. I wrote the following and it was published in the Garden City (Kansas) Telegram in the town where Miss Sitts taught high school for 35 years.

Choices mark the pathways of our life. Ironically it is the small, seemingly insignificant ones at the time that affect us most profoundly. It is not always the choice itself, but the window that it opens and introduces us to someone who will play an important role in our life.           

Choosing to take Latin rather than Spanish when I was a freshman at Garden City High School was a choice I made many years ago and looking back, I'm not sure why. At 13 what do you really know? Two years of foreign languages were recommended for those planning to go to college then and my older sister had taken Latin, so I followed in her steps.

In 1953, Garden City Junior High School was composed of seventh, eighth and ninth grades and next door was the "old" high school, which housed the sophomore, juniors and seniors. The "new" high school did not open until the autumn of 1954 when my class (Class of 1957) entered as its first sophomore class. The Latin class was at the high school — in a dark basement or lower-level room, but the teacher was a young, intense woman whose passion for the subject and her students shone like gold. That teacher was Bernadine Sitts.

 I was fortunate enough to have her for two years of Latin, for junior English and served three years on the high school yearbook staff where she labored tirelessly as our adviser. In the 35 years of her teaching career, she touched the minds and hearts of thousands of students and kept in touch with many of us via a Christmas-time letter as we went about our lives, careers and adventures. How she managed to keep track of us — long before computers — is both a mystery and a tribute to this remarkable woman who was born to teach.

Recently I received a note from Miss Sitts advising that she was moving into assisted living in Garden City and was having to clear out her files. Enclosed was a copy of some things I had written about Latin class in 1955 and a poem I penned in 1957 — items that she had saved all these years. I was touched, not only because she remembers me but because she saved those things.

What an excellent choice the educators of Garden City made when they hired this pearl of a teacher. What a lucky choice I made when I chose Latin so many years ago. Here's to Miss Sitts — nulli secunda!


P.S. Miss Sitts is gone now, but not forgotten.