My mind swirled with the prompt today. Exceptional. So many things popped in my head, but one kept surfacing and resurfacing and that is the many exceptional teachers I have worked with over the years.
And of those exceptional teachers, one kept floating to the top. Celia E. You see, I was a new, brand new teacher and she taught next to me in a progressive building without walls. She was witness to all my first year struggles. She never judged. She offered support in a manner that helped me grow as a teacher.
Celia could sell anything to her students. Smaller that most of the sixth graders she taught, her personality was bigger than anyone I knew. When I came on board that first year, her classroom was The Enterprise from Star Trek. She and Larry, her husband, had spent the summer transforming her space with aluminum foil, yards and yards of twinkle lights and a refrigerator box turned “Transporter” that the kids had to enter the room through. The kids could do the Vulcan hand thingy and they spouted “Live Long and prosper.” Celia wore a Star Trek suit on occasion, commander of the Enterprise.
“Be my sister ship,” she pleaded. Again, and again. Remember though, this was my first year teaching and I had a toddler at home and a kindergartner. My mother had died that fall and I was hanging on by my fingernails. Barely. To top that off, I was NOT a Trekkie, not at all. I did not admit that I did not like Star Trek.
Finally. During Christmas Break she convinced me to join her simulation. She loaned me what was left of the Costco sized box of aluminum foil, that and left over twinkle lights, my husband and I transformed the room. My class would be the Millennium Falcon. Sister ship to Celia’s Enterprise. I did get sucked into the excitement and sold it to the kids. Sort of.
Throughout the year the whole thing petered out. The twinkle lights died and hung there blankly. Large pieces of aluminum foil would fall from the ceiling and land on students during quiet reading. I felt bad. Remember, I know I am repeating this over and over, but it was my first year AND I was not a Trekkie.
That summer we sat down and planned a new theme together. We would be teaching Ancient Civ and decided to simulate Ancient Greek Cities. I was so excited! I was Ithaca, she was Athens and our new teaching partner was Sparta.
Over the years we did a Medieval theme and a Wild West theme among others. There were plays and musicals and the rare sunny afternoon spent playing kickball. We had sleepovers with the kids in the school and Saturday breakfasts. These were truly the golden years of my teaching. I could not have had a better mentor teacher, one that showed energy, passion, enthusiasm. She had high expectations and kids thrived in her class, heck I thrived just teaching with her.