We Were Awakened to the World

My favorite teacher was my third and fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Mildred Wesson, in Staffordville Elementary School in 1950 and 51. There were four classrooms in this country school in a little town in northeastern Connecticut with two grades in each classroom, grades 1 through 8 and she was also the acting principal.

There was no kindergarten, no cafeteria, and no school library. Yet she made a huge difference in my young life. I was curious and eager to learn.

There were only four girls in my class and one Saturday she invited us to come to school and paint a table and several chairs for a “library corner”—the first library I ever got to go to! She woke up in me a great curiosity for learning through reading.

When I asked for more books to read, she suggested I ask Superintendent Witt for books the next time he visited the school. After our sing song “Goood afternoon, Mr. Witt,” I raised my hand and asked politely if we could have more books, and he smiled beneficently as “Clicker” Clark said, “Yah, comic books!” Luckily for me he brought eight biographies of noted people in American History. I read each one several times. I can still see the illustrations in my mind from some of them! They rested on the table in the library corner I helped create.

We planted a tree on Arbor Day. We observed Memorial Day by learning a poem to recite in the little cemetery with the patriotic company of veterans, parents, and others: “In Flanders Fields the poppies blow between the crosses row on row.“ We were awakened to the world around us at every turn. My world opened up tremendously, and to this day I remember her lessons on life. She had a lasting influence on my 35-year career in the classroom.

Elizabeth (Liz) Sartori