Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Mrs. B. & Me: The Passing of Friends, Part 1

It is a part of human experience that years after we meet a notable person, we remember them as if we knew them in the present. This is so with my deceased high school English teacher, Mrs. Faith Beaulieau. Mrs. Beaulieau was a special woman, the type of whom one rarely finds anywhere in great quantity but who one often finds in small number in diverse places. In a high school of 160 students in coastal Maine, Mrs. Beaulieau touched many a future lobsterman and homemaker with her mental precision, grandmotherly manner, and love for teaching. Happily married, with children long gone from the nest, she welcomed the class of 1999 to her room in Machias Memorial High School. We would be one of the last classes she instructed.

Mrs. Beaulieau left a deep mark on me during my time on her wing. She perceived my strengths and weaknesses as a person from an early point. In a school where many students did well to graduate, she challenged my little AP English class to push for greater things. She was a demanding pedagogue, insisting we read much and closely, and giving notoriously hard quizzes. She got to know her students and went to their events, so that she not only instructed, but invested. Her demanding pace was matched by a taste for mirth and warmth. As seems to be my lot in life, I was responsible in that English class for making her laugh, and laugh she did. In that grandmotherly way, she loved a bit of touch-and-go with her students, provided some work was accomplished in the day. In short, her classroom was a warm one, ever brisk and focused, ever open and enjoyable.

After I had applied to colleges, Mrs. Beaulieau and I talked over my college decisions. Hungry for prestige, I had applied to a swath of noted institutions and had grand plans of a Harvard or Amherst degree. Mrs. Beaulieau let me know that she understood my ambition, and gently pushed me to consider more salient questions facing me. What school would best prepare me for my future? How close did I want to be to my family? What was I ready for? She nudged me to think more about Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, four hours away from my family and well equipped to challenge and better me. Her kind advice did much to soften the blow of rejection that hit when Harvard and Amherst sent their “Dear John” letters. It also was used to sharpen my mind, draw me to Christian faith, and bring some of my dearest friends into my life.


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