Yesterday, my warm-up for freshman seminar read, "Write about a teacher who inspired you. What about him or her was so inspirational?" I gave my students some time to write and then asked for contributions.
Finally, after the requisite wait time (the awkward time), I volunteered my own contribution, hoping that, maybe, it would give the kids some reason to talk. Of course, I talked about Mrs. Kenney.
Mrs. Kenney was my 10th grade American Literature teacher. I entered her class quite intimidated by her; she had been my CCD teacher at church and called me Rachel all the time, despite my name actually being Emily. She also thought, for a very long time, that my dad was a priest. Fast-forward a few years-- 10th grade English and I got a 48% I got on a vocabulary test. Mrs. Kenney kept me after class and said, "Emily, is this going to be a trend?" Let's just say, it wasn't a trend.
I remember so much from that 10th grade year, most memorably-- that you should never go behind the barn, never drink blood in the woods, and that King George III was "crazy as a hooty owl". I read, and wrote, and worked and fell in love with literature in a very profound way. As a 10th grader, I knew what I wanted to be: I wanted to be a teacher.
Mrs. Kenney clearly loved teaching. She was funny. She was smart. She was engaging. She was the teacher you read about in novel or see in a movie. She also clearly loved SK. She was at every event. She advised the yearbook. She always coordinated senior class events including prom and graduation. And at graduation she was also hiding on the sidelines, a glimmer in her eyes. She was always proud of her girls.
When I graduated, I remember returning my gown to her. I hugged her and simply said thank-you. She pulled back, looked at me, and said, "no, Em, thank you". Those words have been with ever since that day. And, now, as a teacher I more clearly understand the meaning. I now know that for every lesson I teach my students, they teach me 100 more.
It's because of Mrs. Kenney that I decided to teach English. Tenth grade American Literature opened a door for me, and I have never looked back. I work, every day, to be half of the teacher and mentor that Mrs. Kenney was. Knowing that I won't see her again, or speak with her again...it's heartbreaking. When I posted on Facebook about her passing, one of my friends wrote, "What a great lady and mentor, and you can pass her on to others". I hope I am, and I hope I can. My American Literature class surely knows about crazy old King George and they definitely know that you should, never, under any circumstances, go behind the barn.
Mrs. Kenney, thank you for the lessons you taught me. Thank you for being a mentor, a mom, a friend, and a teacher to the thousands of young women who you educated. I am glad to have known you. I am better having known you. Rest in eternal peace.