Standing Ovations

I love Helen Keller’s story. 

I love that final scene from the old black and white movie version of The Miracle Worker with Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke.  Where Anne Sullivan takes Helen out to refill the water pitcher after throwing a fit at the table and it finally clicks with Helen that the finger spelling game isn’t just a game. 

That the different shapes taking form in her hand have meaning. 

And in that one brief moment a partially blind teacher opens up the world to a brilliant mind. 

Effie, all grown up, with three children of her own now, hugging my mom after the assembly. That's my dad pushing my mom's wheelchair.

This past Monday morning I sat through the opening assembly of the school district where my mother taught primary grades over a forty year span.  She retired in 1985 but she’s never been forgotten. 

By a lot of people. 

But one little girl in particular. 

Effie Panengiatarakos moved to the United States from Greece when she was just eight years old.  And somehow she landed in Betty Gary’s third grade classroom. 

The last year my mother taught elementary school, in 1985. 

Effie spoke not a word of the English language. 

It was all Greek to her. 

So my mom cut out pictures from magazines and pasted them on paper and wrote the word underneath.  She took it to school and worked with Effie during lunch and any free time they had. 

But it was a representation of Jesus from a Sunday School book that broke the ice.  Effie knew him, and when she realized my mom did, too, well, they bonded just like he intended. 

And before you know it, a little girl could speak two languages instead of one. 

Last Monday morning Effie honored my mom by sharing that story, tearfully, with an auditorium full of public school teachers and administrators.

Classroom teachers beginning another year of opening up the world to precious minds. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if all the good ones got standing ovations?

Here's my mom with her former third grade student, Effie. We never forget those special teachers who open up the world to us. So, who did that for YOU?!




12 Comments Add yours

  1. Kelvin Dilks says:

    Beautiful story about a beautiful lady!

  2. That is awesome! Your mom looks great! And, who did that for me? You did!!! You are the reason I became a speech teacher and now, an assistant principal. Thank you!

    1. sallygary says:

      Oh Jennifer, you make my day! Those were fun times we had, weren’t they?! I know you’re opening up worlds to the students you’ve had in class, too. So proud of your new role as assistant principal. Are you as mean as Mr. Garcia?!

  3. Alyssa says:

    Oh I love this post! I know your mom must be filled with joy! And she is such a lovely lady!

    1. sallygary says:

      Isn’t she? We’re kinda partial to our school teacher moms, aren’t we?!

  4. Lisa says:

    I wondered who that young lady was in the pictures. Great story.

    1. sallygary says:

      Yes, that’s Effie – thanks, Lisa.

  5. PeggyCorder says:

    Neat that Jesus is the one that really bonded them…….just like it should for all! Thanks for sharing!

    1. sallygary says:

      Yes, Peggy, that was the sweetest part!

  6. tara sanders says:

    Such a beautiful story; thanks so much for sharing.

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