Remembering a teacher


I must back up on my last column about students not listening.

My two daughters and son-in-law have all been recognized as the best in their field, and I know their students do listen. Sure, some of mine didn’t, but a lot did. I also hear “Mr. Hill, I made a good living for my family and me because of your class.” Maybe because my classes were hands-on more than listening and made the difference.

“Did I listen to my teachers when I was in high school?” you ask. I must have. I passed everything. I may not have comprehended the subject matter, but I did learn. Let me explain. Probably my favorite teacher was Mrs. Mary Brown. I wrote this letter to her husband, upon her passing, who read it at several class reunions.

Mary C. Brown – I’m Glad You Were

As I gather my thoughts of Mary, which I often do, I find myself enlightened and fulfilled, for without her encouragement and guidance I would have missed my calling as a teacher and thousands would have missed the influence of Mary Brown.

It’s as if God flipped the switch to relieve her suffering and then he had to have smiled. How pleased he must have been to see that the light didn’t go out. He must have watched it as it radiated out to thousands of gleaming faces, each had sat in her classroom and each within themselves burst with sparkles of glittering light, and the light kept going.

I retired with 33 years of teaching. The thousands of students who have passed through my classroom did not know Mary Brown, but unknowingly, they carried away with them some of her warmth and understanding. Sometimes, I saw it return when their children took their place among the rows of faces.

Sometimes I ask,

"Will it matter that I was?"

And the answer comes

In faces row on row –

Each a different kind,

Most indifferent to my plight.

But maybe, just maybe

There’s one out there

Who would say,

"I’m glad you were."

Thank God you were, Mary Brown

You see, Mrs. Brown taught algebra. Her subject matter was completely over my head, and she gave me a D. Believe me, it was a gift. But Mrs. Brown talked to us, not at us. She laughed with us and gave us a hug when it was needed. I found there was more to teaching than subject matter.

Today my subject matter, graphic arts, is completely obsolete. It belongs in a museum. Come to think of it, so do I. Come visit.

Don Hill is a resident of Seymour and has served as a volunteer at Southern Indiana Center for the Arts for more than a quarter of a century. Send comments to [email protected].

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