There are teachers who teach the curriculum and hope that some of it sticks and then there are teachers who change your life. I was fortunate to have one of those extraordinary teachers in grade three. I am not sure how Miss Roll ended up in Hilda, at our small prairie school, in the southeast corner of Alberta, for her first year of teaching. I consider it a stroke of luck that she was there just when I, a naïve farm girl, needed her.
Miss Roll introduced us to learning new things in a fun, interactive way. When we learned about Mexico in Social Studies, we were given a Mexican name, ate chilli con carne for the first time, wore serapes and sombreros and listened to Mexican music. We put on a puppet show as a fund raiser. I was “The Pirate Don Duke of Dowdai” and got to make my own puppet. With the money we raised from the puppet show, popcorn sales and other fundraisers, we took a bus trip to the Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary. We were kids who never went much further than twenty miles from home. Going to Medicine Hat was a big deal, Calgary another world. For the Christmas concert we featured the “Christmas Carol” as a puppet show. What better way to learn Dickens at age nine? Miss Roll played the Grande Canyon Suite for us on her portable record player. She brought the world to us.
At the end of Grade three I received a book as a prize, The Bobbsey Twins in Mexico by Laura Lee Hope, signed by Miss Roll, “For marks of highest achievements in grade three.” I still have it.
Not only an excellent teacher, she was a great role modal for young girls. She was always perfectly groomed and poised. She had a wonderful modern wardrobe and everything matched: shoes, purse, nails, lipstick etc. We couldn’t wait to see what she would wear to school the next day and would argue over which outfit was the best. I wanted to be just like her; smart, fun, adventurous and well put together.
I never forgot her over the years. She encouraged me to travel to the lands we learned about, to read and to write. She encouraged me to be the best I could be in spite of limited resources and to be a role modal for others. A couple of years ago I managed to track Shirley Roll Tucker down through the wonderful means of the internet and we have since communicated by email.
Yesterday another dream came true for me as I attended the reading of Shirley’s latest book, The Amazing Foot Race of 1921 at Word on the Street in Vancouver and met with her after all these years. She is still beautiful, full of grace and eloquence. I now have another book in my possession signed by her and this one written by her.
How uplifting to be able to tell her the difference she made in my life.
Is there anyone in your life who has made a difference? Have you been able to let them know?