Every now and then, you lose one of the truly influential people in your life. Earlier this year, it was my grandfather. Last week, I got word that another one had passed on: Myrtle Talbott, who taught my once-a-week TAG class when I was in fourth and fifth grade, who was a longtime member of my church, and who was the first teacher I had who really stretched me.
Picture this: I’m in elementary school, glasses and so uncoordinated they give me extra time in the gym outside of classes so I can learn how to do something athletic without falling over. I’ve been through third grade and the teachers are so tired of trying to keep me engaged that they shift me off in the corner with a book. Then fourth grade starts and they round me up with a few other kids, put us on a bus, and send us to another school halfway across town, where Ms. Talbott waits for us, along with a Spanish teacher, CPR practice, creative writing instruction, real-life biology and science, and a bunch of kids who didn’t seem to mind that I was so odd. And she wouldn’t let me just slide by on glibly knowing the answers. Indeed, she was the first teacher I had who gave me an inkling of that uncomfortable truth: sometimes there are no right answers, only tough questions.
Later I saw her all the time in church, but I never made that connection again. She had already put me on the path and I needed to find my own way from there. But I still wish I had been able to come back and see her before she passed away. I don’t think I ever really thanked her for everything she did for me.
So if you see this and were one of her students, stop in at the guestbook and leave a tribute, won’t you? It seems a shame to leave it empty.