During my years of attending school I found that there were three teachers that I respected and really did like and enjoyed. As I have said several times I mostly went to school for the social part of it. My sister Peg and brother Ben seemed to extract more from their school days than I did but I promise you they never had as much fun as I did and that is a fact. For the most part I got along with all the teachers I had over the years but three stood out unlike the others.
My vocational education teacher was Ron Ramey and he was very possibly the closest anyone other than my family was to me. He worked with me to become successful at farming and for this I am forever grateful. The next was Mike Delfine He taught the business programs and also drove my school bus and was willing to be involved with the students and did so just because he liked doing it. He was a big man with a huge smile and it was easy to say I liked him. By the way he was the man who taught me how to type. I have learned that what he taught me I have put to a great use.
The third was Mrs. Grace Allen who taught English and speech classes. When I transferred from Moscow school to Felicity in the eighth grade it was told over and over that Mrs., Allen was the hardest teacher that had ever been. Her reputation of being hard to work with was told so much that I prayed that I would find a way not to end up in her class. I succeeded at that until my sophomore year and the counselor signed me up for tenth grade language arts. I tried to find a way around her but in a small school there was only one teacher per subject and she was the English teacher.
So when the school year began I went to her room totally terrified. At first I sat as still as possible and said nothing. (This is a rarity for me not to talk.) After a few weeks I began to notice that Mrs. Allen hadn’t really done anything mean or had been rough on anyone. My first observation was that she approached the class with the understanding that she would deliver the subject as seriously as she could and she expected the students to try to learn with their best of efforts. I don’t think most delivered the best of efforts and I was probably one who didn’t but she continued to deliver the subject matter.
Let me pause here for a moment. I must admit I was a poor English student and from her I got a C for a grade. I felt a C would pass me just as much as an A but for some reason I felt I wanted to prove to Mrs. Allen that I could do better. As I was finishing my sophomore year and I was feeling that I had made it almost through her class the counselor went over my junior year curriculum and I was assigned to have her again. Now that just didn’t seem fair but at least I knew she wasn’t near being the monster that I had been told. I wanted to sign up for speech class and wouldn’t you know it Mrs. Allen taught it also.
So I entered her classrooms with a plan to work my hardest and show her I was better than a C student. I don’t think I had realized it but she was challenging me without saying that. Also I felt that speech was not going to be near the challenge of English. I have never been too shy of speaking to a crowd and I felt I could handle her challenge in that subject. But in English I couldn’t dissect a sentence or use proper grammar or punctuation. (To those who read my columns you might see a lot of punctuation missing as I feel it slows down your reading.) I must admit that I worked my hardest that year. I actually was learning things. This I did and I give the credit to Grace Allen. I finally got a B in English and ended up with an A for speech!
Also Mrs. Allen was the teacher who put on the junior and senior class plays and I wanted to be in the plays at all costs. Quite frankly I wanted the lead part. (Ego!) Well I tried out and I did get the lead roll both years. The students in my class were all very talented in acting and our plays were very well liked by the students and I feel Mrs. Allen had to be pleased also. My doing my best I think increased my value in her eyes also.
With such a successful junior year I looked to see what I might sign up for my senior year that she was might be teaching. A new class had been added to the curriculum and that was creative writing. This was a class that was only three days a week and the students all were to get a blanket grade. I noticed that almost all of the honor students had signed up for the class and I figured that she would only give high grades with all the very smartest ones in the class. So I signed up feeling that I had at last found a subject I just couldn’t go wrong in.
I have always enjoyed writing even if I don’t know a preposition from an adverb. So as Mrs. Allen gave us assignments to write I took the topic and tried my hardest. Near the end of the year I wrote a story entitled ‘Boys’ Town”. I was talking about how the senior class was almost all boys and very few girls. Therefore the title. I put together facts along with some humor. The day after I turned it in Mrs. Allen asks me to stay after class. I thought to myself what have I done wrong? She told me she liked the article very much and felt I had done a very good job. Say what? She said this was good enough to be published in the school paper. Wait a minute. Was she finally getting even with me and pulling a joke on me? I was about to pass out as I had never been praised like this but if Grace Allen said so then I had become a success in her classes. I felt then and still today that I had reached the top.
I still have a copy of the school paper and the first article I ever wrote. As you all can figure by now I have written a few more. So I want to say thanks to Mrs. Grace Allen for causing me to take the challenge and walk away from high school with a little more knowledge than I had ever planned for. I can’t help but think that if she were to read my stories today she would smile and feel she did her part. To Grace Allen thank you!
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at email@example.com.