Sunday, October 16, 2011

Tribute to a Wonderful Teacher

Meadows of Dan Elementary School, Meadows of Dan, Virginia



Have you ever had anyone ask you if you had a teacher who really made a difference in your life?   Well, I have had several influential teachers, but there is one who really opened up a whole new world for me.  Even though I did not know it at the time, so many of the things that I learned sitting in her classroom would go on to influence numerous areas of my life in the future.  This person was my 5th grade teacher.  She also taught science and art to the 6th & 7th grades and worked with the Gifted & Talented program.

Now, I am here to tell you,  she DID teach us some manners!   I always had a big problem keeping my mouth closed.  I LOVED to talk!  Those of you who know me personally are probably laughing right now thinking to yourself that I still have a tendency to jabber on and on!  One of the punishments for talking in her class was writing sentences.  "Thou shalt not talk in class."  200 times.   I wish that I had $10.00 for every time that I had to write sentences! We did have classroom rules and any infractions were punishable by writing sentences.

If we finished our assignments early, she would let us do chores in the classroom. One of the things that I loved to do was straighten up the supply closet.  The reason that chore was so enticing was that there was a ladder bolted to the wall in that closet that led to the attic.  Aaaah!!  The mysterious attic!  I wondered and wondered what was up there.   I always thought that I would work up the nerve to climb that ladder and take a peek .   The one and only thing that stopped me was the promised punishment.  She told us that for every rung of that ladder that we touched, we would have to write 1,000 sentences.  "Thou shalt not touch the rungs of the ladder."   The thing that would betray us was the transom window above the closet door, so she would have surely seen us when we climbed up the ladder which was located just inside the door. Here it is 36 years later and I still dream about that closet, the ladder and the attic and I do regret not taking the chance!

She used an awesome grading system for our assignments. 
check plus plus plus; (highest score)
check plus plus;
check plus;
check; (average score)
check minus;
check minus minus;
check minus minus minus. (lowest score)
There was always that happy looking little check mark and never an ugly "C", "D" or "F"!  She always offered to give us extra credit if we were willing to do special projects.  Best of all, she allowed us to be creative!

Some of the things that I learned and enjoyed in her classes:
--Learning to "color" with colored pencils and using pastels. 
--Learning about different local plant life and being able to identify trees.  One assignment was to see who could bring in the biggest variety of tree leaves.  We pressed them between two sheets of wax paper to preserve them.
--Calligraphy!  I remember she placed orders for us if we wanted to get calligraphy pens and ink.   I ordered two pens and six bottles of ink.   (I really didn't realize how long that ink would last . . . I STILL have 2-3 bottles of it!!!!)
--I loved to do the science experiments.  She let us bring in samples of water and view it under the microscope so I brought in some water from Tory Creek, which ran right behind my home.  Wow!  Who would have thought that all of those little critters were in the water that I so loved to play in!  She made science fun and I loved keeping a notebook of all of the results of our experiments.  I remember her reflecting the light through a prism and making rainbows dance on the classroom walls.  I fell in love with drawing pictures of paramecium and amoebas for extra credit.
--She had us decorate a blank journal book and then write, draw or paste special things into the journal.  I still have mine!
--Even though I have never been very good at drawing, I always had a sketch pad.  One time, I asked her to draw me a picture of a girl in it.  She did.  The girl in the picture was me.  I still have that too.
--She read The Hobbit to us in the afternoons until the book was finished.  Her Gollum voice was great!  I went on to read The Lord of the Rings that same year.
--She introduced us to The Jack Tales and Grandfather Tales.   I used to look forward to the days that she would read another story or another chapter.   She would take requests for which Jack Tale we wanted to hear, but she refused to ever read "Soldier Jack" because she said that it would make her cry.  I have read Jack Tales and told the stories to hundreds of kids over the years and I always think of her and the way that she made the characters come alive. I have never read "Soldier Jack" aloud either.

Miss Ruth Jean Bolt was a wonderful teacher and she ran a tight ship when it came to teaching us how proper boys and girls should behave in the classroom.  I still think of her often.  About 10 years ago, I ran into her at the local drugstore in Laurel Fork.  I recognized her right away, but I thought that it would be awkward to speak to her because I figured that there would be no way that she could possibly remember me.  When she turned around, she looked at me and said "Well, hello Kim!"   I would not have been any more honored if the Queen of England acknowledged me!!

Meadows of Dan Yearbook 1976-1977

I know that Miss Bolt received quite a few awards for being such a great teacher.  She deserved every one and then some.

One of my friends, Carolyn, lived 2-3 miles from Miss Bolt.  I remember that one time we became overly ambitious and we walked all the way to her house. We were hot and tired.  Miss Bolt took us in and gave us something nice and cool to drink.  I remember that she had a beautiful teapot collection sitting on some shelves in her home.

I think that one of the reasons that it just broke my heart when Meadows of Dan Elementary School caught on fire this past summer was because I so closely associate the joy of being in Miss Bolt's classes with the school itself.  As I watched a video that was taken of the ruined interior of the school, it showed Miss Bolt's room.  Seeing the ruins of that particular classroom and the closet which held the mysterious ladder made me cry even more.

Looking down into Miss Bolt's classroom.  That white arrow
marks the entrance to the closet and THE LADDER!
Now, I will never know what wonders might have been in that attic.

There are not enough words to express my gratitude to you for being such an excellent teacher, Miss Bolt. Thank you, for encouraging us to explore and be creative.

22 comments:

  1. This is so lovely Kim! What a tribute. As a teacher, I would be so thrilled to read this from a former student. She sounds so great!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I never had Ruth Jean formally as a teacher, but she teaches me something every time I see her. And she remembers, fondly, every one of her students.

    ReplyDelete
  3. What a great tribute to a great teacher. I too had Miss Bolt as a teacher,but that was in high school at MofD. She taught me a lot of things but most of all she taught me self confidence. She taught me I could do anything I set my mind to.I didn't particularly like to read and do all the book reports she had us do. She worked with me to find books that were interesting to me.She kept at to find books and soon I found myself enjoying reading and have been a voracious reader ever since. I will always be grateful to Miss Bolt for being the great teacher and person that she is.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Miss Bolt is such a special teacher. Since I wrote this post yesterday, so many more things have came to mind that I wish that I had included. Not only have there been the comments posted here, but also quite a few on facebook. Obviously, she touched many of her students.

    ReplyDelete
  5. You should print this out and send it to her. As a teacher myself, I can PROMISE you, this will absolutely make her day. It is such a wonderful, loving tribute to a remarkable lady. :o)

    I'm so sorry your school was destroyed. How heartbreaking. I know I was stunned when the roof at the BHS gym collapsed a couple of years ago, and it didn't have nearly the history your school had.

    ReplyDelete
  6. What a wondeful post! She was an amazing teacher-I was lucky to have a few like her. I'm sorry the school burned-my elementary one did too.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Rach, I am seriously thinking about printing out a copy and sending it to her. Thank you for encouraging me to do that. Every time that I think about the school burning, it just makes me feel like a big chunk of my childhood is gone forever. Fortunately, I have lots of photos and tons of good memories!

    Tipper, I wish that everyone in the world was lucky enough to have, at the very least, one great teacher! I'm sorry that you lost your elementary school too. They play such a meaningful part in our childhood.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Kimberly-

    Given that teachers can make SO much difference in our early lives, it is a shame that they are being used as whipping boys (and girls)by those who would blame them for all evils.

    -Dave

    ReplyDelete
  9. Dave, So true and so terribly sad.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Kim you should send it to her. She would be so pleased to hear from you. Miss Bolt spoke at the rebuilding ceremony the school had at the beginning of the construction. She is a great lady that has touched many people in her life. Like you I love her dearly. Reading this brought me to tears and brought back so many memories. I must admit I climbed that ladder and looked in the attic. But it was with daddy when he went to check the heat on a cold winter day. If you remember daddy worked for the school. So I guess you could say I cheated. I have never told that before, daddy made me promise, I guess after 35 years or so I can confess with out getting into trouble. LOL!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Debbie! I am SOOOOOOO jealous! You actually go to look in the attic! You will have to tell about it! Was there a bunch of stuff stored up there?

      Delete
  11. Kim, Oh what a tribute! You must send this to Miss Bolt. Like you, I have so many wonderful memories of that classroom we shared. The Jack Tales & the way she brought the characters to life was amazing and I try my best to continue this as I read them to my Grandsons (their favs). The way she taught us to use a colored pencil to make so many shades of one color was so intriguing to me. I so remember the Calligraphy pens and oh how I loved using them in her classroom. I did not get to purchase one then but can remember the first one I bought and the fun memories of that classroom it brought back. One of my favorites of Mrs Bolts was the many " itis's " we would have, when I use this oh the questions I get sometimes. Mrs. Bolt made quiet the influence on me and my life also Kim. She was bigger than life in my eyes back in the fifth grade as a little girl. Now, as I look back as a Mom and Grandmother she still is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did send it to her just before Christmas. I spoke with her on the telephone yesterday and she wanted to thank me. She said that she shed a few tears while reading it!

      Delete
  12. Harlon and I were in the first 6th grade class that Miss Bolt taught. It was a wonder that she kept on teaching after having Harlon and some of the other boys in that class but she did. She also taught us in high school. Not only did she teach us but our children as well. Lori was in the same class as Kim and was so excited about learning Calligraphy. Brian still talks about Miss Bolt reading Jack Tales to the class. At Christmas a year ago, Lori said that all she wanted was to visit Ruth Jean Bolt so she called her and we set a time. We were only going to stay a short while .....and Harlon, Lori and I spent the whole afternoon. We were all talking at one time, reliving old memories. We had such a wonderful time with her. If you have the time, make it a point to visit with her, you will not regret it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing about Miss Bolt, Betty Lou!

      Delete
  13. Ruth Jean is one of the most kind hearted, loving people I have ever had the pleasure to know. She was my moms favorite teacher and I always wished I had gone to Mdws of Dan School just so she could have been my teacher, too. However, I grew up in Floyd and didn't have the pleasure, but did get to "work" for Ruth Jean in my 20's. She had a great impact on my 2 sons as well. We all LOVE Ruth Jean!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel so blessed to have been taught by Miss Bolt. I really should have been going to Floyd County schools because I actually lived in that little strip of Floyd wedged in between Carroll and Patrick Counties on route 58.

      Delete
    2. I guess mom and dad sent me to Patrick because they both went to school in Patrick. They also didn't want me to have to go all the way to Willis Elem on that little crooked road!

      Delete
  14. I LOVE THIS! check plus plus!!! I LOVE HER! I LOVE THOSE MEMORIES! She taught my mom and dad too. p.s. I had to write sentences too since I was often on the other end of the talking! LOL. LOVE YA! Lori

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lori, I'm sure that many of the sentences that we both wrote was because we were talking to each other! "Thou shalt not talk in class!"

      Delete
  15. I so enjoyed reading Kim's tribute an outstanding teacher. I was fortunate enough to purchase one of Ms. Bolt's sketches in Richmond this past week and I was interested in finding out about the artist. After reading all these tributes, I am pleased to have be able to purchase a sketch of a banjo player
    As a retired teacher, counselor and historian I found the messages about this exceptional educator a pleasure to read. Thank you for sharing these messages.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Miss Bolt was the most influential teacher that I have ever had and I know that everyone that was one of her students, absolutely loved her!
      I remember one time, I had a sketch pad and I asked her to draw something in it for me. In just a few minutes, she had drawn a fabulous sketch of a young girl. I still have that sketch! She is so talented and much devoted to teaching.

      Delete

All comments will be moderated. Your comment will appear after it is reviewed.