(Originally posted 5/7/13)
Thank you Mrs. Zengerle…for accepting me…
Mrs. Zengerle was my first grade teacher and I have absolutely no idea what she looked like. All of my memories of her are of what she allowed me to do and who she allowed me to be.
Mrs. Zengerle let me help anyone in the class who wanted a partner instead of assigning me one.
She let me read whatever books I wanted instead of staying with the reading group. She let me create a four-box diorama when everyone else made a one box diorama. She didn’t make fun of me when I brought in clean underwear for my friend Deanna to wear because she didn’t have any.
Mrs. Zengerle let me climb on the top of the monkey bars even though I got too scared to come down and the principal had to come and get me.
Mrs. Zengerle had rules, don’t get me wrong. And there were consequences for students who didn’t follow them. But I was an obsessive rule-follower. I was a worrier and a classic over-achiever.
And Mrs. Zengerle “got” me. She saw the strengths and the weaknesses of a six-year old and honored them both.
I practiced saying her name for weeks before school started, and then, within minutes of the start of the school day I found out that I had been practicing it WRONG all along. I was in tears. I know…a bit silly from an adult perspective…but I had wanted her to like me, and so I was very careful to say
Hello Mrs. Zengerle (Zen-girl-y)!!! VERY LOUDLY when I came into the room. She came over and read my name tag and hugged me and told me how glad she was that I was in her class.
When she said, “Good morning class, I’m Mrs. Zengerle (Sang-earl) ” I cried silent tears of embarrassment for having mispronounced her name. I was sure that she must hate me. But of course, she did not. She didn’t even mention my mistake. It wasn’t long before I realized that in her room, mistakes were not a reason to feel humiliation. What a wonderful gift!
I’m pretty sure that Mrs. Zengerle made all of her first graders feel special and important. It just doesn’t get better than that. So thank you Mrs. Zengerle….so very much.
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