Teacher of the Year

March 2, 2012
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Here we go again, in the principal’s office. I walk down the hall, and take a left. I knew my way. I had developed an image as the “bad kid” who parents didn’t want their kids playing with at recess, and I had only finished first grade. I perceived elementary school as a snake pit, where students and teachers alike were mice and I was a lone cobra. I wanted to devour them all.
Summer had slipped through my fingers like sand and I found myself forced right back into the pit again, only this time I was a second grade student to Mrs. Pribble. She was an older woman, probably in her 50s, although if you had asked me back then I’d get a cheeky grin on my face and tell you she was 200 years old. I did that once… to her face. But what made Mrs. Pribble so unique was that she laughed. She laughed at my jokes. She encouraged a lively banter and the occasional light hearted put-down. I didn’t realize it then, but she was quickly and effectively shaping my behavior from uncontrollable class-bully to a much more manageable class-clown. In Mrs. Pribble, I found hope. I found someone who was willing to look past my defense mechanism and I found out how to embrace the child inside.
My leaf wasn’t completely turned, however. A few altercations with my parents, teachers and fellow students leading up to recess had left me with blood boiling under tightly clenched fists and misty red eyes.
I broke. Now was time to strike.
I was mean. Cruel. Relentless. I made sure my tears weren’t the only ones that would stain the snake pit red that day. It only took half of recess for the playground advisor to notice my behavior and call the principal to personally bring me to his office. As I waited on the step outside the school doors, I felt a steady hand on my shivering shoulder.

Mrs. Pribble had heard about my breakdown on the playground and came out to talk to me herself. My heart sunk. I could take the stern tone from my principal any day, but what I could not force myself to fathom was the thought of Mrs. Pribble turning against me.

“How are you doing, John?” The sweetness in her voice had not changed one bit. She went on to ask me about my day, my week, my month; basically, she was tracing back to the year before when I started acting out.
I quickly realized what she had seen in me this entire year; I was unhappy and needed someone to talk to, not someone to be disciplined by. And Mrs. Pribble’s affection radiated to my inner being.

In church, I heard there are guardian angels placed all around the earth posing as human beings, and though there have been a few in my life since, none have exceeded the standard set by my second grade teacher, Mrs. Pribble.

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