Remembering Mr. “R”

Most of the teachers I had were good teachers. My parents were very wise, and when they didn’t like one of my teachers, they didn’t let on. They taught me to respect my teachers. In a couple of situations when I had a bad teacher, I just had to work hard and try to get through the class the best I could. My parents helped me when they could, but when I almost failed trigonometry, they couldn’t do much to help me with my homework!

Fortunately, most of my teachers were very good at their job. It’s probably why I went on to become a teacher myself. Several years ago, I wrote this essay about a teacher I had in 7th grade, and I’m sharing it with you again.

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I had this teacher once. Mr. “R” was not considered a “cool” teacher. He didn’t play favorites. He taught. He showed me how to find the various innards of an earthworm, taught me math and literature, and instructed me in the fine arts. I learned about pointillism and ringing handbells. He also insisted that if we didn’t get something right, we had to try again until we did get it right. When I went up to his desk to ask him a question, he would look at me as if I should already know the answer. I was probably supposed to know the answer, but I had been daydreaming when he had given us directions. Mr. “R” was a tough teacher, which made him a good teacher. Strict, yet kind.

Mr. “R” was also the church musician and so years after I had Mr. “R” as a teacher, he was my choir director. I was able to get to know him as an adult. I always had fun rehearsing with Mr. “R”!

I still play in the handbell choir at church.
I still play in the handbell choir at church.

It was during this time that I was diagnosed with breast cancer. While I valued all the cards and letters I received, I especially treasured the letters Mr. “R” sent me. “The news of your health has haunted me for these past few days…” he wrote in his beautiful script, the same handwriting I had read long before on the papers he had graded. “Along with depressed moments during these dark days ‘have no anxiety about anything…’ Philippians 4:6.” His kind words encouraged me and gave me hope.

A few years ago, Mr. “R” passed away from cancer himself. I have kept his letters in my “cancer scrapbook,” and they bring back fond memories of him. I wonder, did he know how much his letters meant to me?

And so, Mr. “R”, I send you a much belated “Thank You” for so much encouragement during a dark time in my life. You are an inspiration to me as I strive to encourage other women who are in similar situations. I just hope I can be as encouraging to them as you were to me.

“But encourage one another daily…so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:13

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