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A Tribute to Teachers

May 10, 2017


A Tribute to Teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Since we are in the midst of Teacher Appreciation Week and since yesterday (May 9, 2017) was National Teacher Day, I have been thinking of the many teachers who have been so important in my education, in my life.  My list of teachers whom I significantly appreciate will not be announced in a “Top Ten” manner, but will be presented in chronological order.  While I will name only a limited number of teachers, I realize that I have learned something from each of my teachers and professors.  In this week’s Wordwalk, I will focus on teachers through my eighth grade; in next week’s blog post, I will concentrate on teachers from Clinton (Indiana) High School and professors from Indiana State University and Western Michigan University.  I hope that my tribute to my teachers will bring forth positive memories of your teachers for you.


My thanks and best wishes to all who are currently enjoying this highly worthwhile, rewarding career of teaching and to those who have admirably retired from this profession!  May many of your students be inspired to follow in your footsteps and become remarkable teachers.


With neither preschool nor kindergarten at Jacksonville Grade School (Blanford, Indiana), I believe that my first “teacher” (in a make-believe school) was my older sister, who was born to be a teacher.  As soon as our dad nailed a chalkboard to a knotty-pine wall for us, my sister became “teacher”; and I had to be her first student.  In a variety of ways, I know that Mary did help me prepare for each level of my education that lay ahead.  In more recent years, I have observed what an effective, confident, and creative teacher she is in her preschool classroom.  In 1969, Mary earned her first education degree from Indiana State University; and she is still thoroughly enjoying teaching little four- and five-year-old students.


At the beloved Jacksonville Grade School where my formal education began, so many extraordinary teachers stood in front of the chalkboards of the four classrooms through the years (1914-1961).  Still today, I can clearly visualize the first/second-grade classroom when Ms. (Joan) Jones was my second-grade teacher.  In this classroom, I can clearly picture myself reading to my fellow students the first poem (about a poodle) that I ever wrote.  Since I enjoy writing poetry so much, I certainly thank Ms. Jones (Mrs. Bogetto) for first giving me the opportunity to write and present a poem.


In the third grade of the five years that I studied at Jacksonville Grade School, Mrs. Keown, our teacher for the first part of the year, was undoubtedly the sweetest teacher I have ever had.  With her gentle ways, she treated each student as her own child.  Then, for the remainder of third grade and all of fourth grade, Mrs. (Marguerite) Lenderman was our artistic, no-nonsense, creative teacher who was the first to add festive stickers or silver stars to our papers.  Her cursive handwriting was as beautiful and stylish as she was.  Learning cursive from Mrs. Lenderman was learning from an expert.  Her bulletin boards were inspirational.  At recess times and at PTA meetings, this outstanding teacher encouraged and a few times directed the singing that my cousin Carole Lanzone (Morgan), our friend Kathy Gill (Staats), and I enjoyed.  Since Mrs. Lenderman and her husband Mr. Max Lenderman often ate at my Aunt Zita’s Italian restaurant, my family and I were able to maintain a friendship with the Lendermans for many years.  Even when I was in my early 40s, Mrs. Lenderman was still encouraging me.  When we met at the former restaurant Larry Bird’s Boston Connection (Terre Haute, Indiana), she had read a piece I wrote about my first Leader Dog Keller; and my fourth-grade teacher insisted that I should publish my story.  All of us who were students of Mrs. Lenderman and who became teachers must have certainly kept in mind her ways to model in our own teaching.


When Jacksonville Grade School was closed after my fifth-grade year (1960-1961), we Jacksonville students were bused to Universal Grade School for one year.  At this grade school, I met Mrs. Waters, our first teacher of music.  Having a music class once a week was a special treat, and I loved to sing harmony.  An animated and enthusiastic teacher, Mrs. Waters energetically played the piano and demanded that we all sing.  We did.  When we all went to the newly built Van Duyn Elementary School (kindergarten through grade eight) in 1962, Mrs. Waters directed the all-school Christmas and spring concerts that were highlights of those years.


Thanks to Mrs. Whitlock, who taught physical education and other subjects at  Van Duyn Elementary, I entered and attended the Science Fair on the campus of Indiana State University when I was a seventh grader.  (The Van Duyn eighth grader who participated in Science Fair that year was Clarine Nardi, a brilliant friend who became an attorney.)  Although my project with geraniums (still my favorite flower of my container garden) was a meager one, the experience and encouragement Mrs. Whitlock gave me were large.


Mr. (William E.) Payton, who had been principal during the final years of Jacksonville Grade School, was one of my “rotating” teachers of seventh and eighth grades.  He had an unbelievably precisioned cursive, handwritten with a fountain pen with blue ink.  This memorable teacher kept ringbinders filled with patriotic and other poems in his own handwriting.  Each Friday, he used this special ringbinder for a class of sharing poetry with us.  I am certain that this was his favorite hour of the week, and I imagine some of his poetry readings helped to influence my love of poetry.  I can still hear his reading poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and verses of our national anthem that are not often sung.


For a variety of reasons, I remember Mr. (Donald) Kemper.  The most clear eighth-grade day in my mind is November 22, 1963–the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  With our class of students unusually stunned into silent respect, Mr. Kemper stood in the open doorway of our room and listened for another announcement about President Kennedy to come over the PA system or to be shared by someone in the hallway.  On that day when so much changed so tragically, sadly, and quickly in the United States, Mr. Kemper was there.


While all of my elementary teachers helped to prepare me well for my secondary and post-secondary education, these wonderful teachers of the 1950s and 1960s helped to instill in me goals for life-long learning.  With the strong foundation in reading, phonics, writing, grammar, and punctuation that my grade-school teachers gave me, I was eventually able to become  a technical college instructor of writing and now, in my retirement from teaching, am able to pursue my own writing and publishing goals.


With all due respect to our teachers involved in our formal education at our schools, I believe that our most important teachers are our parents or another parent-like figure.  My sister and I were blessed with extraordinary and loving parents.  On this coming weekend of Mother’s Day, I will re-post at least two articles related to Mother’s Day.  Then, please remember to visit this Wordwalk blog next week on its typical day of Wednesday to read more about the outstanding teachers from my secondary and post-secondary school years.



With much appreciation to all active and retired teachers

and with best wishes for a Happy Mothers’ Day weekend,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


May 10, 2017, Wednesday


AUTHOR’S NOTE:  You are welcome to visit my author’s web page at:

where you can see the photo of the cover of my book The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season and photos of  my guide dogs Zoe and Willow (with me), as well as read a sample of my book and find ordering information for my 101-page book.  Happy reading!



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  1. Alice. One of the first classes I took in the fall of 2014 was technical writing, which I had a hard time with. It seems that being a creative writer by nature didn’t fit too well with the technical aspects of writing, but I did give it my best. I only wish I would have had you as my teacher. Thanks for a wonderful post. It took me back through my own times at school in the sixties and seventies. dp

    Sent from my wicked smart Windows 10 machine

    • Deon–Thanks for commenting on my post about teachers; however, I should explain that I never taught the course “Technical Writing.” Although I taught at a technical college, I was one of the instructors who taught the essay writing and communication skills courses. Another instructor in our Department of English taught the technical writing course, which, while very necessary in our world today, is in a different ballpark than creative writing, which you do so very well.

      Hoping you and your family enjoy a wonderful Mothers’ Day–Alice

  2. Fran Rayce permalink

    Thanks for a walk down memory lane as all of the teachers mentioned were familiar to me, although not all were my classroom teachers. I have commented on a number of occasions about what unsung heroes these professionals were, and as you pointed out, what wonderful role models they were for many of us. While not having a wealth of materials, they worked so hard to not only teach the basics but to enrich and encourage us as well. They were powerful and positive influences who willingly shared so much of themselves. Thank you for bringing their names forward again.
    Love, Fran

    • Fran–Thanks for pointing out that these teachers managed to do all of their wonderful work with a minimal amount of materials. I very much appreciate your adding your comments on this post.

      Take care and Happy Mother’s Day–Alice

  3. Reblogged this on Abbie's Corner of the World and commented:
    I didn’t realize it was National Teacher Week until I saw this. Did you have a teacher who inspired you? Please share your memories either here or on Alice’s blog.

  4. This is so true, Alice. Teachers, the good ones I mean, certainly inspire people to greatness. Mrs. Patrick was such an encouraging teacher that I won a trophy for most improved student in 1966. Mr. Cardinall was the first native North American teacher I met and he was a true gentlemen. I forget the math teacher’s name in high school but he used to tell jokes on Friday afternoons.

  5. mfanyo permalink

    Dear Alice,
    Oh, how I loved writing on that chalkboard and being your first teacher! Mrs. Lelia Pickard, my first-grade teacher at Jacksonville Grade School, inspired me (even at the young age of six) to pursue a career in teaching. After earning my degree, I was fortunate enough to visit Mrs. Pickard to discuss the joys and challenges of teaching second graders. Then retired, Mrs. Pickard gave me some of her very own teaching materials, which I proudly used in my classroom. What fond memories I have of Mrs. Pickard and of all the dedicated teachers at our little school who gave us such basic, yet enriching, learning experiences!
    With love and appreciation to you and Willow,

    • Mary–Any mention of Mrs. Pickard brings to my mind her delicious pineapple squares which, I understand, she served at a tea for the mothers of your first-grade class, back in 1953. Any WORDWALK reader may find this delicious and unique recipe in the archives of this blog: “Mrs. Pickard’s Pineapple Squares–A Thanksgiving Tradition” was posted on November 13, 2013.

      As always, thanks for adding a comment–Alice and Willow

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