Megan Pursifull is a third-grade teacher at Columbia Independent School.
The year I was in second grade was the Christmas that I wrote to Santa asking for a chalkboard. How filled with delight I was to find a sleek blue slate chalkboard on a silver stand, complete with colored chalk and a felt eraser. My joy increased as I discovered that the reverse side of the chalkboard was a magnetic board with colorful plastic letters spelling out the message, “With love from Santa.” I wonder if Santa knew the impact his gift would have on my future.
My sudden interest in all-things-school took root in my 8-year-old heart for one reason. This reason was a tall, slim woman with a cheerful smile and a love for her students. This woman was Mrs. Theresa Bohlmeyer. Without her knowledge, Mrs. Bohlmeyer became an influential person in my life during my year in her second-grade classroom at Chance Elementary School in Centralia, Missouri.
I have vivid memories from my childhood. In this year in particular I remember the waxy smell of crayons and the inky purple smell of the worksheets freshly printed and warm and ready for coloring with my periwinkle and carnation crayons. Mrs. Bohlmeyer carefully taught me how to write in cursive in my Big Chief tablet. I received stars and stickers on my work. More important to me than stars and stickers, however, was the meaningful praise that Mrs. Bohlmeyer bestowed on her students. I wanted to please her, and I worked diligently to learn.
I remember Mrs. Bohlmeyer taking us out to the playground for recess. I, in particular, loved the swings. I would pump my legs and the swing would soar back and forth until I felt like I was flying. Then, Mrs. Bohlmeyer would blow her whistle and our class would line up like soldiers, quiet and respectful as we entered the building and sat down at our blue desks. We would lay our flushed cheeks on the coolness of the desktops as Mrs. Bohlmeyer began to read. It was at this time that my life-long passion for reading developed. My favorite book that Mrs. Bohlmeyer read to us was "Charlotte’s Web." I was enthralled as my teacher read in her gentle voice about the escapades of Wilbur and his deep love of Fern. Charlotte, in her graceful and eloquent way, gave voice to my inner thoughts about friendship, courage and perseverance. Mrs. Bohlmeyer was my Charlotte.
The same Christmas that I requested the chalkboard, our grade level was in charge of our school’s holiday program. Mrs. Bohlmeyer asked me if I wanted to play the part of Mary. With a quick prayer of thanks for my long, dark hair, Mrs. Bohlmeyer helped me create another memory as I remember kneeling in front of the audience on the stage next to Joseph. I looked up and saw Mrs. Bohlmeyer smiling at me.
On the last day of second grade, Mrs. Bohlmeyer called me over to her desk and told me I had permission to go through her scraps of paper and fabric and to take what I wanted for my future classroom. She told me that she thought that I, too, would make a wonderful teacher.
And so, as I embark upon my twenty-first year of teaching, I want to thank Mrs. Bohlmeyer. As a third-grade teacher, I understand the influence a teacher has on a child. I understand that my words go to the heart of a child and that I need to teach with dignity and grace. I remind myself each morning that I must be the best that I can be. I strive to be like Mrs. Bohlmeyer, and I thank her from the depths of my heart.
This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.