Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sr. Virginia

Because of the amazing power of email, and social media, I can respond to a news item I just read about a tragic accident. Last night, one of my most revered high school teachers, the one who would not let me BS my way through intro to psychology, was hit and killed by a car.

According to the local news report, the driver was not speeding or drunk. But I'm sure that person is hurting. The more they learn about the person they inadvertently killed, the worse it will get for them.

Sr. Virginia was demanding. My friends who had her for English, German or any other subject were in her class because they were the smartest ones in our class. She knew how smart each of her students were. She also knew the difference between confusion and laziness. She recognized that teenage hormones and social demands were challenging - but not in her class room. She knew how to keep us focused on work, not boyfriends.

She was like a mirror to me. She reflected the parts of me that I wanted to ignore; to explain away. Kind of the way one exhales when they see their paunchy stomach in the dreaded three way mirror of the department store changing room. She didn't coddle me. She protected me from myself.

In college, I thought of Sr. Virginia's critical review. When I would read drafts with her eyes, I would end up turning in work that would reflect my best effort; not what I needed to do to get by. She helped me define my standards. I think of her when my standards get the best of my nerves. When I start over-editing, I hear her saying, "... Just start writing. Get the thoughts out, and then shape them."

She also raised money for school trips to Germany by selling Haribo Gummi bears. I will order some of them online right now in her memory. Any of my St. Joseph High School classmates who want to do the same: here's the candy maker's website:

And while we're at it. I'm thinking of making a special donation to my alma mater high school. After all, it's those teachers that saved me when I needed it most.


  1. So well said. I had her for German class. She was intimidating, but I always knew she was just trying to get the best out of me. I remember seeing her years after graduation and talking with her about writing and college courses in general. I didn't say it then, but wish I had: thank you for teaching me how to work hard. And smart. She was one of those teachers you'd never forget.

  2. She sounds like the best sort of teacher, and I'm really sorry this happened.

  3. Thank you for this, Silagh. To this day, I eat Haribo Gummi bears, and think of the German club, & Sr. Virginia's teaching methods... So tragic.