A new semester starts tomorrow, and I’m thinking of my grandmother, Marjorie Good. She was an artist, whether she held a paintbrush in her right hand or used her left hand to play boogie-woogie on the piano.
I’m thinking of her right now because she was also a teacher. She taught English for nineteen years at a public high school in the Western Suburbs of Chicago. She retired before I was born, but her stories resonated with a deep love for the material and for her students. Sometimes in the middle of a tale, she would stop and smile, remembering a particularly gifted young woman, or shake her head over the teenage boy she was never quite able to bring out of his shell.
She started the media studies program at her school, teaching film courses as electives and always bringing music and art into the classroom. She loved laughter and jokes, wrote her Master’s Thesis on humor in Shakespeare, calling it “Hamlet Plays the Clown,” and every year would dress up as Harpo Marx for Halloween.
She died on January 2, after four years of battling multiple myeloma with more grace and good cheer than most people can muster on their healthiest days.
Tomorrow I teach my first class as an instructor of record (as opposed to Teaching Assistant) at the University of Virginia. I created this class, slaved over the syllabus, and was really looking forward to calling her afterward to tell her how the first day went. Instead I’ll wear her necklace that my mom gave me the day before the funeral. It’s reminiscent of a Celtic wedding ring, and she wore it almost every day.
I believe great teachers live on in their students. I will do what I can to ensure that she lives on in me.