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donnaodonnellfigurski.com - Student Memories
Student Memories
More than 500 students have passed through my classroom since I began to teach in 1982 . . . some of them twice. Most of the time I teach 1st grade, but sometimes I teach 3rd. That’s why I am fortunate to have some of my students two times. All my students are special. All hold a precious corner of my heart. All are remembered one way . . . or another. Below, you can meet some of my students.
Reunited in Erie, PA
April 2009

"Where's Papa going with that ax?" yelled Fern Arable (aka Tiffany Griffith Dorta) in Charlotte's Web. The play debuted more than 20 years ago in my 3rd grade classroom. After reading E. B. White's classic to my class, we wrote our version of the play. Then each child practiced his or her part until he or she was ready for opening night . . . errr . . . opening afternoon. Those eight year-olds put on a perfect play, not only for their fellow schoolmates, but also for the general public at the local mall.tiffany-&-donna-apr-2009

So many years later, it was fun to meet Tiffany again. She's all grown up now. Tiffany and I m
et in Erie on a recent visit to my hometown. We spent several hours traveling down memory lane--remembering her classmates and teachers, remembering the play, Charlotte's Web, remembering learning the multiplication tables. And, now I am left with the happy memory of remembering a very pleasant evening with Tiffany and her lovely daughter.

Email from Tiffany:

Just want to say it was really nice to see you.  You look wonderful, like time has not passed since I left your classroom!  It was nice to be able to talk to you as an adult and realize what a wonderful person I had as a teacher.  Thanks so much !!!  You taught my little chatterbox to whisper the word "shout" ....that is hysterical!!

tiffany  :)
Greg in 1st Grade
Greg in 1st Grade
Greg was a good student and a happy child for most of his 1st grade year with me. His mother, Val, was my dynamic class mom. She could handle anything! Then one day she told me she was worried. She was about to give Greg a brother, and he was upset about her going into the hospital. He was afraid she would not return. I told her not to worry. I told Greg not to worry, too. His mother was going into the hospital for a happy event. Greg was reassured and our whole class set out to write a book to welcome Greg’s new baby. (When all else fails – WRITE!) Greg also wrote his own book to welcome his new brother, David. (As David grew up, he landed on my classroom doorstep, twice – both in 1st grade and 3rd grade.) About ten years after Greg was in my class, Val told me that he was in the hospital. This time I couldn’t tell her not to worry, as I had done so many years ago. I couldn’t tell Greg that either. Greg was diagnosed with cancer. He was only 16. My memory of him stops there. But I remember him always. I remember his smile. I remember his fun-loving ways. I remember him six years old and in my 1st grade class. And, I miss him.

Lily was my flower. I’ve had many flowers over the years, but Lily was my first. She was another student that I was lucky to teach in both 1st and 3rd grades. She had a quiet way about herself, and her studies did not come easily to her, but Lily never stopped trying. Each day she sat at her desk and plugged away. She worked hard, even though it didn’t seem like she was getting very far. It wasn’t until near the end of 3rd grade that she began to bloom. And bloom she did! As a little bud opens slowly to form a beautiful flower, so did Lily. Now each year she proudly shares her report card with me each term. Look! Another “A!” I’m so proud of you, Lily.
Karen starred as Wilbur in a 3rd grade adaptation of Charlotte’s Web. The class not only staged the play for the whole school, but they also performed at one of the local malls.

Cathy was Mrs. Zuckerman. Ooops, small problem here. “She won’t wear a dress,” insisted her mother. So this farm lady wore overalls. Cathy was happy.

Melissa was a gorgeous spider.
"I think I can! I think I can! I think I can!" said my little engine, Nicole. And I knew she could. And she did!
Each morning as the children get ready for their day, I call for "ANY ANYTHINGS." Children bring absence notes, deliver love notes, or share a quick story with me. It's a lifesaver time since it delays the rush of twenty or more children crowding me as soon as they walk in the door. It's proven very effective . . . but occasionally, a child forgets. Thomas forgot.

Thomas stopped in front of my desk and began to tell me something. I looked at him, but he prattled on. I had not yet called for ANY ANYTHINGS, so I made no response and continued to stare at him. I figured he'd soon figure it out. He didn't. I raised my eyebrows, just a bit. Thomas stopped talking and stared at me. Then, to my surprise his eyebrows raised just slightly . . . to match mine and a knowing grin spread across his face as he realized he must wait for ANY ANYTHINGS. I thought, "Okay, he's getting it, now." But not Thomas. He stood his ground and he continued to look at me with his eyebrows raised. I was going to wait him out. So, I cocked my head to the right. He moved his to match mine. Then I slid mine to the left and screwed up my mouth. I scrunched up my forehead, knitted my brows together, and pasted a questioning look on my face. Then I just stared at him. He slid his head to the right, screwed up his mouth, scrunched up his forehead, and knitted his brows together. He pasted that same questioning look on his face AND he placed his hands on his hips. I quickly added my hands to my hips. Several minutes passed as I tried out different positions. His face mirrored mine each time. Finally, I leaned over and stuck my neck out towards him. He did the same - mirroring my every movement. I tapped gently on the tip of his nose, invading his space and I knew I had him then. He would NEVER do that to me. But, he reached out and tapped the tip of my nose, too, and sent me into a fit of giggles. The rest of the class was silently watching our impromptu performance and they started laughing, too. Thomas, with head held high, walked away a few steps, but soon doubled over and his laughter mingled with ours.

This scene took longer than if I had simply said, "Thomas, save what you have to say for ANY ANYTHINGS...but it wouldn't have been as much fun.
The day began normally...at least as normal as any day in a first grade classroom. Children emptied backpacks. Jackets and sweaters were hung in the coatroom. A low buzz filled the room as the children set about writing in their journals. Attendance was nearly complete when suddenly a muffled voice was heard...a single note, "La." Several children raised their heads from their journals and quickly looked around, but soon lost interest. "La" and a slightly higher "La, La!" followed. I looked up. More children noticed and stared at me awaiting my reaction. I pretended not to hear. They glanced at each other and snickered, but quickly returned to their tasks. I glanced around the room. One seat was empty. "La, La, La, La, La, Laaaaa" rose to the highest range of the scale and then quickly decended to a very low and heavy "LAAAAAA." Every child burst into giggles. The sound escaped from behind the bathroom door. The voice suddenly rang out as if in encore, which put us all in stitches. We doubled over and grasped our sides. Our laughter mingled together and we were drowned out by the bathroom opera singer. Silently, I motioned for the children to be still. Once quieted, I whispered that if we kept silent we would be entertained with more arias. Our opera singer didn't disappoint us. Our silence made him more energetic and he began to experiment with a variety of sounds. It took every bit of control to be quiet and we giggled with our hands clasped over our mouths to trap our sounds within. Titters could be heard throughout the room as sounds escaped from between fingers. Suddenly the toilet flushed, the tap water rushed, the light switch flicked and the bathroom door opened to the astonished face of Alex. As he greeted his waiting audience the children burst into uncontrollable laughter and hooted and howled their pleasure. Alex stood in the doorway looking rather chagrinned at first. His face was scrunched up with a mixture of surprise, a bit of shyness, and a whole lot of pride as he realized the applause and attention was solely for him. His sheepish grin and gleeming eyes met mine and I nodded to the front of the room. I suggested an encore and Alex gladly accepted. He moved center-stage and ran through his repetoire of notes as we all once more grabbed for our sides. When finally we regained control I suggested that we all get busy with our day.

I silently wondered what would be next. That afternoon, Alex, my lanky, shy, Alex whispered to me that he knew all along that we were listening to him in the batroom and that was why he was doing it. Earlier I had thought that maybe I was nurturing a future opera star right there in my bathroom. Now I wonder if a comediene wasn't born that morning.
All contents copyright (c) 2002. Donna O'Donnell Figurski.
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