I was an 11-year-old fifth grade student at University Demonstration School in Athens. She was a 21-year-old student teacher assigned to my class. She was my first big love!
The city of Athens had a large school system, but the few rural families were left out. Most of us were sent to a school owned by the University of Georgia and used as a practice school for their education students. Our campus, along with the Teachers College, was located in Normal Town on the site currently housing the Navy Supply Corps School.
It was a great school. Because it was a teaching facility for student teachers, each class had a highly skilled and experienced teacher, along with one or more student teachers. Class sizes were fairly large, but we had plenty of instruction, and we all received as much attention as we needed.
Our student teacher for that spring had a strong interest in science, and she was very pleased to learn that I lived across the road from a swamp. (In the politically correct terms of today, it was “wet lands.”) She immediately asked if there were any ponds with tadpoles.
Now that swamp was one of our major play areas. I knew all the paths, all the streams, and all the little ponds. And yes, I knew which of them had tadpoles. There were thousands of tadpoles. So she suggested that she come over Saturday morning and we would go catch some to put in the aquarium tank in the classroom. Watching the tadpoles grow into little frogs would be a wonderful science lesson for the class.
Can you imagine a better way for a redneck kid to spend a Saturday morning than tromping through the swamp with a beautiful girl who likes to get in the mud and chase tadpoles? I had the time of my life! The best part was when I got to hold her hand and guide her to the safe ground and stepping stones we used to cross the swamp.
Catching the little critters was easy enough. She had brought along some little dip nets and I provided a couple of half-gallon mason jars. We collected a couple of dozen tadpoles and plenty of sticks, leaves and other material they used for shelter. We had enough stuff to fill the aquarium with places for them to crawl up on as they developed their legs and lost their tails.
I had her all to myself most of that morning. I liked her a lot when we started that adventure. And by the time we finished, I was madly in love! How was I to know I was being educated at the same time?
When the school year ended, she was gone. But I remember her as one of those special teachers who instilled in me a love of learning. And I am still grateful for that.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His website can be accessed at http://www.frankgillispie.com/gillispieonline.