#5 of 13 Teachers Who Made Me Who I Am: 4th Grade

As I hinted to in my 1st grade post, Mrs. Russell was transferred to the 4th grade right along with the “Dukes.” Since we had missed out on her for almost half the year due to her accident, it was exciting to have her again.

She continued to challenge the “Dukes” and provided enrichment for the five of us. I remember many days of staying in at recess with her planting window gardens, learning to smock, and doing some very difficult non-fiction reading in the area of history. I think I have mentioned before I did not like history at all and this was a very frustrating time for me. However, she pushed us and I survived.

At one point in the year, we had a spelling bee and I came in 2nd place. I was bummed, no doubt to come so close and not win. She awarded me the “2nd place” ribbon which I still have (pictured below). What you cannot see is on the back she wrote “Have a Pepsi on me!” Those 5 words meant almost as much as a first place win.

Fast-forward 8 years. I have just graduated 3rd in my class. My friend, a “Duke” of course, was salutatorian. We were gunning for the 1st and 2nd ranked spots for years, but a move-in bumped us to 2nd and 3rd.

A few days after graduation, I hear a knock on my front porch door. There is Mrs. Russell with a gift. A giant red Webster’s New World Dictionary. The inscription read:

May, 1992

Melanie –

Congratulations upon your graduation.

May your life open up like a beautiful flower…

radiating happiness and joy, peace and love.

Mrs. Russell

Lesson learned from a 4th grade teacher: There is no shame in 2nd place, or even 3rd, as long as you gave it your all.


2 gifts given 8 years apart, over 20 years ago.

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