“You people have diarrhea of the mouth!”
Every time Miss Berry said that to us, we snickered.
She would get that exasperated expression on her face, standing up at the front of the class behind her desk so prim and proper.
But within a heartbeat the wide grin that exposed her gold tooth was back again.
For the fifth and sixth grades my homeroom teacher was Jimmie Berry. She taught music and spelling, but her training – and her passion – was music.
She was the teacher who taught me about composers like Mozart and Beethoven and Bach.
She was the teacher who arranged a field trip that year for the whole fifth grade to go downtown and hear the symphony.
She was the teacher who first taught me to listen for the different sounds I heard in a piece of music, to identify the instruments separately, even though they were mixed together.
She was also the teacher who introduced me to the Beatles and Carole King.
She let us play records we brought from home.
She taught us how to read music. And love it.
We had talent shows in class and she always laughed at whatever I did, especially my impersonation of Flip Wilson’s character, Geraldine.
Once she told me I was her own little version of Carol Burnett.
She was the teacher who chose me to play Mary in the Christmas program for the PTA.
In the sixth grade she asked me to be the emcee for our final program of elementary school, because she, too, knew that I could talk better than I could sing.
I can’t imagine what those years would’ve been like without her.
Can’t imagine who I would be now had she not been my teacher.
It’s hard to believe that there was ever a time when she wouldn’t have been allowed to be my teacher.
What I would have missed.
So thanks, Dr. King, for helping to make it possible for Miss Berry to be my teacher.