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.
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?