My first grade teacher was Mrs. Wilma Griffin. We were kin. She and my Dad were first cousins. I was somewhat proud of being related to my teacher. But I was also a bit afraid of her. Though I held our kinship in my back pocket not once did I ever play that card. I had a lot of respect for Mrs. Griffin. Even as an adult, if I were to see her in a family setting I could not call her by her first name. She was always Mrs. Griffin to me. I learned a lot of things in that first g...rade classroom in the basement of East Bernstadt School. I had perfect attendance and made decent grades. But the lessons were routine enough and came easy enough for me that the specifics of them do not stand out. But twice that year Mrs. Griffin stood before our class and made an announcement that left an indelible impression on me. One day she got our attention and told us that President Kennedy had been shot and killed. Later that year she told us that our school would be integrated the next year meaning that we would have black boys and black girls in our class the next fall. I do not remember raising my hand and asking any questions about either of these announcements. I think I had a pretty good understanding of what they meant. I knew they were both big events that altered my world.
Mrs. Griffin died this last week. She was 92. I had not seen or spoken to her for close to 30 years. But in the course of those years my mind has gone back to that first grade class room many times. Yes, teaching is important. Teachers do make a difference. Thanks, Mrs. Griffin.