June 15th, 2006
Here’s To You Mrs. Angelero
Mrs. Angelero was a tall lanky woman whose beauty was concealed by the thick eyeglasses she wore. Her raspy voice could make her students stand still in fear or feel safe and comforted. It all depended on what they were doing at the time. She could always see right through them if she knew they were up to something. And she’d let them go through with it, provided it wasn’t going to put them in any danger, just so that she could teach them a lesson later on when they were caught. She was always challenging the minds of her students, making them think things through and not giving up answers to questions that they could have easily found out if they had tried hard enough.
She was always coming to class with an overstuffed school bag. Somehow it just didn’t fit her personality. Here she was impeccably dressed. Her long slender finger nails always neatly polished in the brightest ruby red that would make a candy apple pale in comparison. Her jewelry always matched her outfits and her shoes seemed to have been made to match as well. But that overstuffed school bag just didn’t fit her. It was overflowing with papers, untidy and unorganized. Yet she always managed to find the right class assignment, the right graded test papers and anything else she was looking for. She protected that school bag with a fierce look whenever any one stood near it. That made every student curious as to what was in it besides paper work. Every time one of them asked her, she’d tell them figure it out. But no one ever did.
She was a disciplinarian but at the same time she had a quirky personality. Mrs. Angelero was always on the students to mind their manners and be kind to others. One day when she over heard us calling Sr. Miriam Teresa, Sr. Bulldog, she brought us all into her classroom, had us sit down and think about what we had done. She told us how wrong it was to make fun of others and she asked us to think about how it would make us feel if someone had done the same to us. After we all felt ashamed for what we had done, she told us we could get up and continue with our recess. But before we walked out of her classroom, she said; “Now even though it’s true that Sr. Miriam does look like a bulldog, it still isn’t nice to say.” We walked out of the classroom trying hard not to burst out into hysterical laughter.
All our classmates gathered around us curious to find out what she had said to us but we knew that if we had repeated what she had told us one of them would tell the principal and Mrs. Angelero would get into trouble. As tough as she was with us most times, she was a very special person in all of our lives.
Years went by and we all graduated and headed on to high school. I didn’t think of Mrs. Angelero until I heard that she had died. I was a senior in high school. I immediately thought back to the day she had us all in her classroom and suddenly I remembered that overstuffed schoolbag. Did anyone ever find out what was in it? The day we went to the funeral parlor to pay our respects, we all hugged and kissed and began to feel the regret of not having kept in touch with each other. As we all gathered outside for a breath of fresh air, one of us commented about the overstuffed school bag. One of the former teachers of the school over heard our conversation and began to laugh.
“She never had anything in the bottom of that school bag. She just enjoyed keeping you all on edge. The same way you all drove her crazy in class all she had to do was take out her school bag and you would all remain quiet trying to figure out what was in it. There was nothing in it but papers, but it sure made you all think and kept you quiet for a while.”
I thought back on my reaction each and every time that over stuffed school bag came out. It was distracting but only for the few minutes it was out there. I realized that Mrs. Angelero had always taken out that bag when the class was too loud, to talkative or getting out of control. How could an over stuffed school bag have such an effect on all of us? What made Mrs. Angelero think that a school bag would be the one thing that captivated an entire class room of uncontrollable students?
We all smiled that day as we said our goodbyes. We still couldn’t figure out why she used the school bag but we knew that she used it to captivate us, to keep us in line, to get our curiosity going and distract us from the things she knew we shouldn’t have been doing at that moment. We exchanged our contact information with promises to keep in touch. And as I walked away, I thought, once again, she had left us with a smile, a lesson and a wonderful memory.Copyright © 2006 by Sonia Agron –word count 886