Adam Peddle and his Elementary teacher Miss Ripley
A Shout-Out for A Teacher February 24, 2019
Last year holds quite a few happy memories for me. Just about the happiest for both Kathy and me was the wedding of our oldest son, Adam, in September in the Czech Republic. It was quite an international celebration and I spoke about it and even shared a few photographs at our Diocesan Synod in November. There is something about seeing your children get married and make a life of their own that tugs at the heartstrings of every parent and I am grateful to have lived long enough to see my children become adults. Various writers over the years have written about a parent’s role in giving Roots and Wings to their children and I thought about that on Adam’s wedding day. As parents we give our children roots in things like family and faith and childhood memories to come back to, and we give our children wings to discover new things about themselves and their world. Roots and wings are essential gifts parents give to their children for they provide both the security of an identity and the courage to realize new heights.
Because Adam got married to Magdalena in her Czech homeland there were only a few of us from Adam’s home, including his brother Ben, able to be there on his wedding day. And so, Kathy and I decided that when the newlyweds came to Newfoundland for Christmas, we would throw them a little reception with friends who could not make it to the Czech Republic. We asked Adam to provide us with a list of people to invite and in the end there were about 50 or 60 who came out for the party just before Christmas.
We were pleasantly surprised when Adam sent us his list of people he wanted to see, and it included a couple of his old teachers from elementary school. We knew that he had special memories of them but we did not realize how deep his memories had become. In the end, only one of his elementary school teachers was able to come by that day – Mrs. Glenda Ripley – who had taught Adam at Newtown Elementary School in Mount Pearl.
Included with this Moments of Grace are “before & after” pictures of Adam and “Miss Ripley” from back then and from today. In the years between those pictures Mrs. Ripley has retired and Adam has grown from a nine-year-old to a 31-year-old. Along the way he has completed an Engineering Degree, an MSc and a PhD. He has worked all over the world and because of his travels and schooling comfortably speaks five different languages today (English, French, Portuguese, Dutch and Czech). He met the love of his life a few years ago in the Netherlands, married her in her native Czech Bohemia, and today they live and work in London, England. But somehow through it all he never forgot “Miss Ripley” and in fact treasured every memory of a wonderful teacher. We knew that her influence upon Adam was a gift so many years ago but now we realize that he has carried her gift with him ever since.
I didn’t choose to become a schoolteacher all those years ago when I was deciding upon a career. But I have often wondered what it would have been like. I guess there are equally important callings in life but I don’t think there is any that could be greater than being a teacher. The privilege of helping a young person grow in knowledge and skill while also helping them develop their own particular character and gifts is pretty awesome in my books. Mrs. Ripley – Glenda to us – connected with her students in such a profound way that her influence continues in so many lives long after her days in the classroom have ended. She was patient and insightful and Adam loved going to school knowing that he would see her each day. Kathy and I saw that happiness once more when Mrs. Ripley walked through the door of his Newfoundland wedding reception this past December. And even though more than 20 years have passed since their last meeting, a student and his teacher never forgot each other and the life lessons they shared once upon a time. Glenda was a terrific classroom teacher but even more importantly was (and is!) a terrific human being!
And so, I dedicate this Moments of Grace to Glenda and all of those teachers, past and present, who make a difference in those young lives entrusted to their care. I also have a few favorite teachers whom I remember fondly. Truthfully, most of the stuff they taught me is long since forgotten or surpassed by new knowledge but what I remember mostly is how they made me feel – how they made me feel about learning and about life and about myself. I was gifted with some incredible teachers over the years and their rich life-giving influence continues for me today.
There are many ways to be great in this world, but I think being great in the life of a young person and helping them discover who they really are must be the best.