In the fall of 1986 I entered Mrs. Aumiller’s class.
I started a new school that fall, and I was worried about it – a new school, a much longer bus ride with a change of buses midway, and few people that I knew in my class.
It didn’t take long to know that it was going to be a great school year, though.
Mrs. Aumiller had short white hair and talked kindly, even through she often threatened to hang us up by our big toes and give us 40 lashes with a wet noodle. The gleam in her eye always let us know she was kidding, but we never wanted to find out what she would do if we did misbehave. We gathered for reading groups in a semi-circle of chairs at the front of the room and got new crayons each semester. We did our work with fat blue pencils that didn’t have an eraser and recited poems from our English book in unison. Six-year-old me loved When Daddy Fell Into the Pond.
If we finished our work early, she would take a black marker and draw a maze of wide lines on a piece of white construction paper, then instruct us to color it without letting two spaces of the same color touch.
At Christmas she wrapped her desk in that wide paper that looked like bricks and taught us how to make Christmas ornaments out of construction paper and glitter. At Easter time we made big eggs and decorated them with lots of colors.
She started each day with a moment of silence, a throwback to the days when teachers began the day with prayer, and then the Pledge of Allegiance.
It was in her class that I met the people who became my best friends.
It was from her that I decided there was more to the teaching profession than dominating the giant chalkboards and controlling the box of chalk.
It was from Mrs. Aumiller that I first saw that school could be fun and teachers kind.
Mrs. Aumiller’s ideas were the first that I secretly hid away to use for that future day when I would have a classroom of my own.
A few years later I changed schools again, but Mrs. Aumiller kept track of me. I’m not sure how it all happened, but we stayed in touch, and she – along with my also-amazing second-grade teacher – came to my wedding. They both have faithfully sent Christmas cards to my family each winter for years now.
My Christmas card list got a little shorter this week, though, when Mrs. Aumiller passed away. She’s been sick for years now, and while I’m happy to know that she’s not suffering any more, it’s hard to know that she’s gone.
She was an incredible teacher, and she taught more than 37 years’ worth of kids.
I’m so blessed for having been one of them.