By Kathy Bergant — First on my list of best, favorite, most dedicated, and most influential teachers is Mrs. Rosalind Bennett.
She taught second grade at Morgandale Elementary School on Milwaukee’s south side, and I feel most fortunate to have been among her students.
She and her hubby were middle-aged and childless, so Mrs. Bennett counted every child in her classroom to be one of “her kids.” Every day, her warm smile and her encouraging manner demonstrated how much she respected and cared about us as individuals and as a group. It was perfectly clear that there was no place in the world she’d rather be than in her classroom with all of us.
Mrs. Bennett was a natural teacher, whose enthusiasm for even the most mundane and the most difficult subjects inspired us. She succeeded because she made learning enjoyable. Long before computers, the Internet and smart phones, she must have spent enormous amounts of her own time and money devising clever games, puzzles, and learning tools. For example, she made flash cards to help us learn the rules of spelling and grammar, and then added a competitive element by dividing us into groups for weekly bees. She enhanced our math lessons by having us sit on the floor around an imaginary pond filled with cardboard fish. Then we took turns picking up and turning over the fish, and giving our answers to the addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems she had printed on the fishes’ backs. She enhanced our music education by transforming all of us into a classroom-wide chorus and then teaching us a variety of performance pieces, from classical to contemporary.
Mrs. Bennett’s expertise wasn’t limited to reading, writing, and arithmetic. She taught us to believe in ourselves, to care about others and the world at large, to work hard and to never stop learning.
Mrs. Bennett died many years ago, but I still consider her my best, favorite, most dedicated, and most influential teacher ever.
Kathy Bergant is a graduate student of English at Mount Mary University