When I first saw her at the reunion, I made the rather silly assumption that she might have been somebody's mother. How sweet, I thought, bringing one's mom as a date. I then turned back to the business of trying to guess people's names without looking at their name tags, which sported their yearbook photos from 1981.
Later on, I got a better look at the gray-haired woman I'd glanced at before, and I realized with a jolt that she was Mary O'Donnell, someone I've mentioned in a previous post as being a major influence on me in my life as a writer, a teacher and as a person.
I gave her a big hug and we chatted for a while. She seemed amused to learn I was a high school assistant principal, and that I had taught high school English. On her end, I was pleased -- and not at all surprised -- to learn that she keeps busy working with new and struggling teachers.
In addition, I found out that she still drives her signature Corvette convertible, which is in mint condition. She's having it appraised and is hoping to get enough for it to purchase a home on Nantucket. I showed her photos of my boys, of course.
Before we were done, I made it a point to inform her of the difference her influence made. Had it not been for Mary O'Donnell's brief appearance in my life, I never would have become a teacher myself. In turn, just as she had touched my young life, I was honored to be able to do the same for the many students I've worked with over the years.
The impromptu, unexpected meeting with one of my favorite teachers served as the perfect reminder for me of why I'm doing the work I'm doing, and why I always gravitate back to being in a school. As much as I'd like to claim Ms. O'Donnell as my teacher alone, I know she had the same effect on many of us who were fortunate enough to have her as a teacher.
So, from this modest platform, I'd like to publicly honor not just Mary O'Donnell but all teachers who bring their best to the classroom each day. Thank you, not only for making me feel loved, but also for always insisting on my very best.