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Every single morning from grades 3-5, I’d wake up excited to go to school. Despite the fact that I was just about the ugliest kid ever, even though a total of zero boys talked to me, and even though I couldn’t quite master my 7 times table (still haven’t gotten it down, tbh), I absolutely loved school.
It wasn’t the learning, necessarily, even though I am a total Ravenclaw. And it wasn’t my tight-knit group of best friends. No, the reason I absolutely loved waltzing into Fruitville Elementary every single day was for one reason and one reason only: I had the best teacher in the whole entire world.
It’s weird, having a favorite teacher. Almost everyone has one, don’t they? Someone who inspired you, who challenged you. Made you look at things a different way, taught you lessons besides just out of textbooks, and all of the other clichés that stuck with you long after you graduated from their classroom. Still, even though we all have our favorites, we’re all convinced that our teacher, our favorite, is the best.
And honestly? With Miss Trigg? I was right.
My childhood was filled with absolute joy because of her, and I received the gift of learning actually being fun. That’s not something most people can say. That’s something few of us can brag about. But in her classroom? We didn’t even realize we were learning. We’d spend weeks sprouting peanut seeds and making our own peanut butter in the mornings, and the afternoons painting on easels to enter our local art fair. Every Thanksgiving we’d host a massive feast for our friends and families, where dressing in traditional garb and spouting facts about the first Thanksgiving was mandatory. The holidays were spent learning about different cultures and celebrating different traditions, and every Friday would start with all of us dancing to The Twist and ending huddled around a fake campfire, eating popsicles and talking about our favorite parts of the week.
It sounds like I went to some fancy-ass new age school, doesn’t it? I mean, you’d have to drop a shitton of money for your kid to go to school and have fun without realizing that they were learning anything, wouldn’t you?
That’s the thing. Miss Trigg was a public school teacher. She didn’t do it for glory or bonuses or recognition. She did it because she loved each and every student that graced her classroom. She made each and every one of us not only feel special, but she made us believe that we really were.
She was my absolute favorite teacher in the world, and she passed away this year. It was wildly unexpected — heart failure that took her long before her time. We were told she was in the hospital and then, a little over a week later that she had passed on in the night. Her name was Linda Trigg, and she was the best educator, the best mentor, and one of the best people I ever had the honor of meeting.
During our years of education, we encounter tons of teachers, professors, and influencers. Different subjects, different styles. There are usually a few we can name — the ones we liked, the ones we hated. The ones who had it out for us and the ones who were totally warranted in giving us detention because, in 10th grade, most of us were assholes.
But usually, out of all those people, there’s that one who stands out. That one who shines above the rest. And we hear it from our teacher friends a lot — just how hard of a job it is to shape the minds of future leaders. Most of us roll our eyes and mutter something about “summer vacation” before blowing them off. And for the most part, I agree. Sure, teaching is most likely challenging. But that’s why it’s a job. Most careers out there supply some type of difficulty.
Even though plenty of teachers don’t do enough and plenty of teachers just scrape by, there are, of course, the exceptions. The truly exemplary ones who do what teachers are supposed to do: Get us excited about life, create a thirst for knowledge, and make us feel like we might actually be able to make a difference in the world.
These are the people who make a difference in our lives.
When we found out Miss Trigg was sick, a Facebook message was sent out to everyone, asking to send cards. I cried in my bed, devastated that she wasn’t doing well, and made a mental note to write something to her. Each time I’d pick up a pen, however, I clammed up. I didn’t know how to say all the things I needed to say. How to let her know how much she shaped me. How grateful I was to have been taught by her. How much she impacted my life.
So, I put it off. I told myself I really needed to mull over my thoughts, figure out how to get my point across. She would be fine. I had plenty of time.
The note sat, unwritten, on my bedside table for exactly 10 days. And then? I got the next message. The one saying that it was too late. That my note would always go unwritten. My note would forever go unread.
Crushed isn’t even the correct way to describe how I felt. Depleted, maybe? Ashamed? Since I was in 3rd grade, Linda Trigg has been a household name. She taught my brothers. She influenced our family. We went to her retirement party and sent her cards at the holidays. She was my mentor, my role model. The person I wanted to be when I grew up.
And I never really got the chance to tell her how much she shaped me. How much she changed me. How much her lessons, her wisdom, and her kindness have followed me 5, then 10, then 15 years since I left her class. How they’ll always follow me.
But, I guess that’s the last lesson she was supposed to teach me. No, I didn’t expect to keep learning from her in my mid-twenties, but that’s the sign of a great teacher. Because if someone touches your life, if someone shapes you, if someone pops into your mind at unexpected moments and fills you with joy — fucking tell them. Don’t let those opportunities pass you by. Don’t let those chances to express love, gratitude, and appreciation drift away. Because maybe they didn’t necessarily need to hear it, but you might find that someday, you’re the one who needed to say it.
So, instead, I start each and every Friday morning dancing to The Twist (seriously. My dog hates it) and end it thinking about all of the good parts of the week. Because if there’s anything my favorite teacher would have wanted, it would be continuing to instill the joy and thirst for life that she showed me so many years ago. That she continues to show me, long after I left her class, and long after she left us..