Strange situation yesterday. I’m sitting there working and “T” starts talking and really opening up. He starts telling me how his dad wants him to go to a different school next year and that starts a conversation about why he’s not finding success in this school and that leads to an honest discussion about reading and math and special ed. I’m really listening and thinking about everything he says and I don’t notice Vicki Jo walking up beside me. She touched me on the shoulder and I turned and saw her smiling face and went berserk. Vicki Jo! Vicki Jo! Mi Amiga, Vicki Jo!
We were a force to be reckoned with. Vicki Jo, Elsie, Rick and I. We’d worked together for years at another school and we had our hands in everything. We served on just about every committee there was, taught our classes, had lunch together, and were valued by and pleased with our principal. Rick was a young teacher and I was his supervisor during his first year of teaching. Elsie, Vicki Jo, and I were not only friends but students and were all working on a masters in educational technology. We collaborated on everything and seldom got away from school before five or six. We didn’t mind because we loved what we were doing and loved each other. Our principal was promoted to another position at the board and new principal came to the school. We couldn’t stand him. He not only failed to appreciate our dedication but heaped tons of additional work on us and we felt overworked and undervalued. The guy was a total jerk. He really wanted to attract fresh new teachers and showered them with glory in an effort to keep them while being totally unappreciative of those of us who had been dedicated to the school for years. In the long run, he didn’t manage to keep the young shooting stars and alienated most of the core group of teachers who had invested so much into making the school successful. Within three years of his arrival, more than half the staff had transferred. Rick was the first to go, Elsie and I left the next year and Vicki Jo remained one more year and then shocked us all when she announced she was retiring from teaching and moving to Cambodia to do missionary work. Not only was she moving to Cambodia, she was going to a village with no running water and going to live in a hut with dirt floors. She’d been going over there for two weeks at Christmas for several years and loved the Cambodians and felt like that was what she needed to be doing.
Imagine my shock and joy when she walked in yesterday. I saw her smile and my whole world opened up. She’s been gone for more than two years. No email, no letters, just the occasional update from another teacher who attends the same church as the one that sponsors Vicki Jo and her husband. I can’t begin to tell you how happy it made me to see her. She’s here for a month and then she’ll be going back to Cambodia to resume her work. In the meantime, she found out where I was teaching and just showed up out of the clear blue. I really didn’t think I’d ever see her again.
Rick is now a big shot at the board of education, Elsie is still in the classroom and I guess some people think I’m a big shot in the technolgy world because I’m one of only 12 TRTs in the state. We all went our separate ways and followed our own paths. Vicki Jo and I talked for about an hour and then she had to go but promises that she’ll see me a couple more times before she leaves. I hope we can all get together for dinner before she has to go back. I see Elsie occasionally and Rick every now and then but I’ve never found the kind of commitment and comraderie with a group of teachers like I had with them.