82: My First Teacher

82: My First Teacher

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

My First Teacher

The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it.

~James Bryce

In 1960, the schools in rural Minnesota were not required to provide kindergarten, and so began the most memorable year of my school career. Each morning as my brother and sister prepared for school, I too would follow the morning routine. When my siblings boarded the bus, I would kiss my mother goodbye and walk to the back door of our small home. There I was greeted by my “teacher,” Mrs. Jager, who graciously welcomed me to our small service porch, which housed a potbelly stove and my own small school desk.

The antique iron and oak desk became an island of paradise for me. I learned the wonders of letters, sounds, numbers and the Golden Rule. My favorite time was just after lunch when my “teacher” read to me of Winnie-the-Pooh and Toby Tyler and taught me it was okay to cry when Toby’s monkey died, because indeed, the joy of reading was to make you “feel things in your heart.”

My most memorable day was when we took a “field trip” to the city. My “teacher” told me it was a special surprise. After the neighbor gave us a ride to a bus stop and we completed many transfers, I gaped in wonder at the great stone building amidst the hustle and bustle of the city traffic. I will never forget holding my mother’s hand as the large oak doors opened and I saw the shiny marble floors and smelled the aroma of books. Rows and rows of books stood before me. I was astounded by the immensity of the whole experience. I whispered to my mom, “Can we afford this?” My mother’s beautiful laugh and smile filled the quiet hall. “No sweetheart, we get to borrow as many as fifteen books, for free.” My heart raced. I couldn’t believe it; we could take any one of these books back to our little schoolroom?

My own children learned the joy of reading as my wife and I cuddled with them and read bedtime stories. As a school principal, I get to observe the mysteries of the printed word come to life for students every single day. I get to watch as the eyes of struggling readers flash with realization as knowledgeable and dedicated teachers inculcate them with the joy of reading. But, I most look forward to reading to my kindergartners about Curious George and Thomas’s Snowsuit because it reminds me of a cold bus ride with my mother, my first teacher, from a small farmhouse to the Saint Paul Public Library.

~Bill Jager

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners