Reconnecting with My High School Teacher

Meeting my high school teacher 38 years later

Meeting my high school teacher 38 years later

Who was your favorite high school teacher?

Mine was Mrs. Myrra Lee, of Helix High School in La Mesa, California, a suburb of San Diego.

Through an odd, but emotional set of circumstances, I discovered Mrs. Lee  was celebrating her 90th birthday in San Diego in July 2016, and her family posted an open invitation on Facebook to former students. Initially I declined because we had no desire for travel plans in June or July due to my husband’s summer work demands.

I contacted her family via e-mail and gave them my regrets. They asked if we would like to contribute to an album and I submitted this post, Teacher of the Year, thinking that was that. In this post I wrote these words:

Now that I am an educator, I wish she knew how much her teaching influenced my life, personally and professionally.

I never believed that I would ever get the chance to tell her face to face after 38 years.

In late June that year, my brother called to tell me that my mother, who lives in a nursing home in San Diego, had taken a sudden turn for the worst. Her doctor recommended the family should see her ASAP in case she was to pass. Abruptly, my daughter, my husband, and I made emergency plans to travel to San Diego to be with my mom.

As I looked at the dates to fly both my daughter and husband back home for work, I saw that the birthday party for Mrs. Lee was just the following Saturday. I e-mailed the family and asked if there were still spots open for the luncheon, and remarkably, there were several spots left.

The travel plans were for us to all drive the nine-hours together, then I would stay on and attend the party, and drive back home.

As much as I looked forward to this, I also dreaded the idea of my mother possibly passing away while we were there. The emotional rollercoaster that followed was overwhelming as I began grieving the loss of my mother.

From Friday, when we got the phone call, to Sunday night when we finally visited my mom, we weren’t sure how mom would look, but she looked amazingly well. Her doctor had painted a bleak picture of her prognosis. Since it was evening, she was already in bed. She battles a series of medical conditions including dementia, so she was confused as to place and time but recognized us all. Each day we visited her, she got better and the massive infection miraculously cleared up on its own. To this day she is still doing well, much to her doctor’s amazement.

I told my mom I was going to Mrs. Lee’s 90th birthday party. My mom had been with me in 1977 when we attended the high school reception honoring Mrs. Lee’s National Teacher of the Year award. She had returned from the trip to Washington D.C to accept the award from President Jimmy Carter.

Words that are dear to my heart now a year later were when my mother said, “Oh, she’s 90? Tell her I said hello and congratulations.” As if my mom had one foot in 2016 and one foot in 1977.

The day of Mrs. Lee’s luncheon brought me so much joy! Just the mere fact that I would actually see her after 38 years was hard to imagine. I was told by the family that she had suffered a mild stroke a few months before. When I entered the restaurant, I walked up to where she sat and introduced myself. She noticed my name tag and smiled. I asked if she remembered me and she replied very softly that she did. Elated and honored, I got a photo taken with her, then went to sit down.

I sat at a table with several classmates which was an unexpected delight. The best thing about the luncheon was the opportunity for us to stand up and share our perspectives and experiences we had with her as our teacher. They also passed around the two photo albums and I was enormously pleased to see my blog post plastered across two full pages.

Nervously I stood and thanked her for being such an inspiration to me. I’m sure I stumbled over a few more words, eloquent and otherwise, but more specifically, these: “I ended up becoming an educator, too, Mrs. Lee, and this is the joy of my life.”

She smiled and applauded, along with the rest of the room. I sat down with tears shining in my eyes.

In reading through the albums, it was clear that she had not let age slow her down, but continued to make news headlines.

In 2011, Mrs. Myrra Lee was also lauded for her role as a staunch advocate against human trafficking, long after retiring from teaching. This article, “Waking People to Injustice” written by Los Angeles Times Columnist Sandy Banks, leads with this headline:

“Myrra Lee, 85, is working to show sex trade’s hidden victims.”

As I listened to more of my high school classmates share their stories of her, I watched her and still saw that razor-sharp glint in her eye, as her educator mind drank in the memories and praise. Even her recent stroke at age 90 has not stopped those gears from turning.

Sadly, I had to leave the luncheon before it concluded to travel back home. I collected the dogs and my luggage and drove the nine-hour drive home reflecting on how two remarkable women affected my life as a teenager and still feel their continued influence into my midlife years.

My mother, through her daily example, taught me the value of leisure and fitness.

My high school teacher taught me the value of education and challenged students to reach for the stars and to not take no for an answer.

Was it a beloved teacher who inspired you? How so?

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For all you bloggers out there who love stats and analytics, googling “Myrra Lee Educator” ranked my original post fifth on the home page! Your stories do make a difference!

The Future Begins with Steps to Education

Steps to Education lead to the future.

“The potential of things to come” is the theme of the weekly photo challenge depicting the  Future.

Steps to Education lead to the future.

Walking from my classroom on campus a few months ago, I was intrigued by the way the stairs looked on this overcast day. These stairs lead from the east edge of the university campus to the bike trail and on to the bridge that crosses the river.

Many students walk this path, and this young man happened by as I was photographing the steps.

“Education is not only a ladder of opportunity, but it is also an investment in our future.” – Ed Markey (Senator for Massachusetts)

Every semester, I have the pleasure of seeing the eager faces of young adults nearing the completion of their university education.

The future is theirs.

Weekend Coffee Share: In Which I Find Harmony

Teamwork allows these climbers to face challenges and fears.

Teamwork allows these climbers to face challenges and fears.

It has really been a long time since I shared a post for Weekend Coffee Share. I have missed having coffee with you all. Let’s take a nice coffee break and catch up!

If we were having coffee I would ask you what does it take to find harmony in our lives? When we think of harmony, many of us think of musical notes played by instruments or sung with voices.

Another definition of harmony suggests “agreement or accord.” Synonyms of harmony that resonated with me include friendship, rapport and cooperation.

“Eat healthily, sleep well, breathe deeply, move harmoniously.”
― Jean-Pierre Barral

Harmonious Play
I bring up this idea of Harmony  today to illustrate the theme of the weekly photo challenge. The above photo shows my students on the climbing wall at the challenge course at Sacramento State University, where we recently took part in team-building and challenge activities. While performing these activities, students built rapport, demonstrated cooperation, and became friends with each other; a seemingly rare occurrence these days while in college.

As the students take their turns climbing the wall, another group of students works in perfect harmony belaying with rope to support each climber. Working in harmony is critical to the success of the climb and, well, to avoid serious injury.

Eat Healthily, sleep well, breathe deeply and move harmoniously.

After a wonderful day building relationships and overcoming challenges, the students gathered for a silly group photo. Harmonious indeed.

Happy students pose for a group photo after a day on the challenge course

Harmonious Blogs
If we were having coffee, I would remind you how much in harmony we as bloggers can be as we develop our relationships. With writing and story-telling in common, bloggers build rapport and cooperation with each other in many ways.

I recently had the distinct honor of guest posting for Hugh’s Views and News. His blog features bloggers each month and my blog is featured for the month of March. Somewhere along the way, Hugh and I developed rapport as bloggers and have regularly shared each other’s posts. From my end, it is not difficult to do, since his blog is truly wonderful to read. Please visit when you get a chance. I have met and followed several fabulous bloggers as a result of his monthly feature.

Another way bloggers build relationships is by using social networking to share each other’s blogs. Whether you pin someone’s image from a post or share on Twitter and Facebook, taking a few moments to do so helps get the message of a great post out to other readers. If you haven’t tried or used Stumble Upon, I highly recommend this sharing tool.

What makes Stumble Upon unique is you cannot share your own blog content. You can, but doing too much may mark your blog page as spam. This is where building rapport and relationships with your fellow bloggers comes in. “Stumbling” a blogger’s post to your account adds that post to your list of websites you like or approve. I am now in the habit of stumbling many of the posts I read every day. Several other bloggers regularly stumble my posts as well. To give you an example, one recent weekend, my blog stats shot up to over 500 page views with 300 coming just from Stumble Upon. And it was on a day after I had published the post! Take a look at my page for more information.

Creating harmony in the blogosphere takes time and commitment to blogging, by sharing each other’s posts, reading, liking, and leaving comments. How will you find or create harmony in your life today?


Weekend Coffee Share

Looking for a great group of friends with which to chat over coffee and other wonderful beverages? Join Part-Time Monster’s blog each week and share your thoughts.

Weekend Coffee Share: In the Middle

Bright red leaf colors peak in mid-November

Bright red leaf colors peak in mid-November

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that here, in the middle of November, I am smack-dab in the middle of several different projects. How would you like your hot beverage today? I’m still all about the pumpkin spice-flavored coffee.

More improvements made to walk-in closetWhat am I in the middle of, you ask? First, the master bedroom addition is experiencing final touches in the bathroom and closet. My husband is amazing and is creating an awesome closet! Here is where we are today. Still some work to be done!

The master bath is finished!. Take a look at the re-claimed piece of wood my hubby re-purposed into a towel rack. We found a weathered two-by-six in the delta where we windsurf. My hubby used his superpowers to create this gorgeous piece! Great souvenir and looks awesome in the bathroom!Lowly 2x6 board abandoned at the delta gets re-purposed into bathroom towel rack

It will be wonderful to put everything away and start hanging my pictures. But I got to tell you, all this organization and the details, thrown in with some DIY and cleaning, has made me feel surprisingly tired. But I know that it will all be worth it!

If we were having coffee, I would have to bore you with some more photos of autumn in Sacramento. With the rain and cold night temps, the leaves are finally going dormant and flaunting their amazing colors. The leaves are still mostly on the trees as of now, but soon the ground will be covered with a colorful mosaic. A haiku in the making!

If we were having coffee I would explain that I am still in the middle, so to speak, of the semester. The last two weeks, with midterms and no papers to grade, have been nice. Upcoming this week, both classes have papers due! Thinking I had my spring semester all scheduled, …wait, I need a swig of coffee… my department chair informed me on Thursday that I would be teaching my new class this spring instead of next fall. Well… better start reading the textbook, and fast! Even though it is kind of short notice, as the new semester begins in late January, I will be excited to teach another course in the major.

To top it off, last week, select faculty members were invited to read and assess student writing for WASC Accreditation program (Western Association of Schools and Colleges). In order to graduate from California State Universities, students must test for writing proficiency as a junior, then satisfactorily pass a writing intensive course. It was a unique perspective being on the other end as a reader, since I am a writing intensive course instructor. The process was very interesting and I made some extra $$!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you the middle of November has brought some fun to this blog. In addition to the Weekly Photo Challenge hosted by WordPress, I just started a new photo challenge called “Thursday Doors. My post, “Dare to Enter” was my first entry to the challenge. Nothing like a new photography challenge. Anyone can join, check it out!

On Thursday, for my Leisurely Thursday feature, I published a post called Winter Cycling Tips. Not only did it get stumbled (via StumbleUpon) with over 30 views, this post brought the most visitors to my blog in the last few weeks! It did help that I also guest-posted this story on Staycations California. If you are interested in how StumbleUpon works, please refer to the links in my post from last week, The Link To Leisure.

It was a great week, except for the unbelievable tragedy that occurred in Paris. My thoughts and prayers to the families and victims, and I sincerely wish for peace for our world.

What are you in the middle of this week! Come tell me over coffee!

Fall-weekend-coffee-shareWeekend Coffee Share is brought to you by Part-time Monster’s Weekly feature. Come have coffee with us!

Perspectives On…Retirement, Part 3: Empty Work Spaces

It is 1:00 pm on Tuesday, December 16th. I have 4 working days left.

I have packed up a few more things from my office. I have deleted REALLY OLD files and saved others on a shared drive. I have taken all my personal items down from the walls. It really feels like someone has passed away and I am cleaning out their belongings.

But it’s me that is moving on and that’s why I feel a little empty. I guess there is a grieving process to go through in retiring from one’s job after 30+ years. I smile as I write this; however, thinking how the freedom I will experience will be a major paradigm shift for me.

I also conducted my final class lectures last week. After inviting the December graduates to stand up and be recognized, I told them about my impending retirement.  My students reacted so wonderfully in both of my classes, with hugs and handshakes.

These are the photos of my almost empty office and my empty classroom. I shall embrace the changes and the empty spaces.