Nancy Eleanor Hutchens was fearless. She could jump higher, run faster, and fight better than any person I ever met. She was the only girl I ever knew who owned plastic army men. She had no time for Easy-Bake Oven sissy stuff. Her room had no Precious Moments figurines on the bureau. There were no silly “Love is . . .” posters on her walls. She owned one dress reserved for church and weddings. She once said that girls who take Home Economics should be boiled in their own Rice-a-Roni.
Yeah, Nancy Elanor Hutchens was a tough kid and if she knew I printed her middle name in this article, she would likely feed me a knuckle sandwich for lunch.
Did I mention that Nancy Eleanor Hutchens is now a surgeon in Chicago, Illinois, is married to Dr. Bob Hamilton, and has three children: Virginia, Conrad, and Little Eleanor?
Todd Ashley was the epitome of a nerd. He was tall, gangly, owned a pocket protector for each day of the week, owned a calculator when the rest of us were still counting on our fingers, and religiously watched Star Trek every afternoon. At recess, he proved over and over that others would hit a guy wearing glasses.
Did I mention that Todd Ashley is now an electrical engineer and teaches Saturday classes at his own karate studio in Raleigh, North Carolina?
C.E. Barkley could tell a joke like nobody else. He was the classic class clown. He could weave a tale as intricate and exciting as an Amish quilt. He played practical jokes throughout his middle school years. He was hilarious. Needless to say, Principal Spraggs found C.E.’s punch lines anything but hilarious. C.E. failed the seventh grade.
Did I mention that C.E. Barkly is presently a history professor at Longwood University?
Nancy Eleanor Hutchens, Todd Ashley, and C.E. Barkley never had a chance. Many of us never had a chance. We never had a chance to fail after we were given the chance to succeed. For all the misfits who pretended to be tough, or the weak ones who lacked the survival tactics to combat bullies at recess, or the class clowns who never knew when to end the joke, there was a special teacher who pointed us in the right direction and gave us the encouragement that inevitably lead to our personal successes.
For Nancy Eleanor Hutchens, it was Miss Marple, her biology teacher, who introduced Nancy to the wonderful world of anatomy/physiology. That unit on frog dissection changed her life. Like I said, she was fearless and ended up helping some of the more squeamish Junior Varsity football players dissect their amphibians. Miss Marple saw Nancy’s potential and sparked an interest of science in the heart of a young girl who otherwise would have become a professional wrestler instead of a successful surgeon.
For Todd Ashley, it was Coach Sherman who helped him learn basic self-defense tactics. He actually attended the grand opening of Todd’s karate school. During an exhibition match, Todd landed Coach Sherman on the mat. Coach was a little shaken up, but was honored all the same.
After C.E. Barkley’s unimpressive results in the seventh grade, it was Mr. Thompson, his eighth grade history teacher, who decided C.E’s ability to enhance the telling of a story with humorous anecdotes was a wonderful way of conveying historical events. Suddenly C.E. was putting his jokes and jabs to use and excelling in history.
The doors of the high school closed behind me many years ago. Looking back, there are things I would do again, things I would have never done, things of which I should have done less and those things of which I should have done more. As time passes, it does seem the bad memories fade and the happier ones remain.
When it is all said and done, it is the teachers and the administration we think back on with such fond memories. From the strict English teacher we hated because she made us cross our T’s and dot our I’s to the coach who made us push ourselves a little harder each day to improve our time on the mile run. From the literature teacher who made us read that stupid classic to the mathematics teacher who made us conquer fractions when we thought our heads were going to explode. We despised them years ago, but isn’t it funny how today, we can read and write and endure physical activity and know that four quarters make a dollar.
For all you seniors who have adorned caps and gowns and tried to keep in step to “Pomp and Circumstance” as you walked across the football field to receive your diplomas, I commend you for all your hard work, but also implore you to never forget those people who changed your lives in ways you may not know until later.
To all you seniors, I wish you the best of luck. To all our teachers, thank you.