Friday, August 30, 2019

Wings from Jean!

Jean Gerdes was my Jr. High Home Ec. teacher and the reason I wanted to spend the rest of my life making things. My first assignment in her class was to sew a bean bag chair!  What could be more empowering for a 12 year old than to make their own furniture?! Under her tutelage, I cooked quiche, designed a gingerbread village and nurtured my hard boil egg baby, learning practical skills that I carried with me my entire life, while making goals for future things to learn. It was in her class that I decided I would one day design and sew my own wedding dress (check), make my own wedding announcements (check), and decorate my own wedding cake (can I count my sisters' cake? I was too busy the day of my own reception). Looking back, it seems a little strange for a tween to be planning for a wedding, but it is what it is.

Fast forward fourteen years and guess who was there to cater my wedding reception....Miss Gerdes! Turns out that even though I moved out of Pennsylvania after high school, my mom ended up teaching Family & Consumer Science with Jean for years to follow so we were able to keep in touch.  When I told my mom I wanted to quilt, Jean shipped me the quilting safety pins, and plastic rolled quilt holder thingies, and detailed instructions. A short time after her long distance tutelage, I completed a quilt for every bed in the house.

I love the idea of not only being a life-long learner, but a life-long teacher! When my mom talks about so-and-so being one of her kids, we, as her biological children don't take offense. My own children understand that my students have a special spot in my heart, and will be "my kids" for life, in the same way that Jean remains my teacher and cheerleader today.  A few months ago when I found out that I was a top ten finalist for Georgia Teacher of the Year, Jean wanted to celebrate with me. She took a piece of artwork that my students made of an Eric Carle inspired butterfly, and created a stained glass version of the piece. Thanks to to a kind maintenance friend at the school, it is hanging in my classroom window. It serves as a reminder that I can be a second-mile-life-long teacher and advocate for my students, as Jean Gerdes is for me.

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