Pocket author among other writers celebrating former teachers

By Jackie Boor

If asked, we all can name a favorite teacher or two or three….

Speech coach Gladys Hue with then student Jackie Boor in 1966 receiving a first place Lions Club student speaker award. (courtesy: The Del Norte Triplicate newspaper)

For me, in the third grade, circa 1958, there was tiny Miss Mack who firmly ruled the one-room school house in the Bald Hills of Northern California packed with a dozen boys and one other girl besides me.

Mrs. Kauffman, my sixth grade teacher with the lavender house, believed in taking time to rest our heads and close our eyes for fifteen minutes after recess while she read vivid stories aloud and transported us to exotic corners of the world.

In high school, I soaked up the guidance of Mr. Kunstal one revelation after another as I learned the ropes of being high school newspaper editor.

But in those early years, one teacher rose above the others and it wasn’t just because she had lived in Hollywood as an aspiring model and ridden on the back of a motorcycle with Cary Grant. She did for me what many teachers do. She altered the course of my life, so when I heard “Chicken Soup for the Soul” editors were looking for an inspirational story about teachers, I wrote about Gladys Hue.

The oldest of five children, my world in 1963 was about as small as the town I lived in. Crescent City was a logging and fishing community just south of the Oregon border. Girls wore saddle shoes. Boys sported Converse high-tops. We rode bicycles to school, walked to the movies and roasted hotdogs over driftwood fires on the beach.

That normal family life for us took a sudden turn in 1963 when my mother had what we called then “a nervous breakdown.” At the age of twelve, my big sister role suddenly expanded in responsibilities when my mother checked herself into a psychiatric facility 250 miles away. My dad was a logger and gone most of the day, so my elderly grandmother with several missing toes came to help the best she could. It was a trying time for us all.

My grades began to drop and so did my spirits…until Mrs. Hue walked into our classroom one morning. For all who knew her then and throughout her life, it’s easy to recall the special kind of twinkle she had in her eyes.

On that day, so long ago, when I was missing my mother and so troubled by an uncertain future, Mrs. Hue looked like an angel when she walked into our classroom. She was there as a speech therapist and, one by one, assessed students listening for lisps and poor pronunciation. When my turn came, I had devised the genius plan to fake a stutter just so I could spend more time with her and it worked!

When I got to high school, she persuaded me to join the competitive speech team and her coaching led to accomplishments that earned me much-needed scholarships for college. Somewhere along the line I confessed my deception about stuttering. She merely grinned and told me she had known all along.

My story about Mrs. Hue, “The Code Reader” is one of 101 personal accounts collected for the newly released “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Teachers.” Co-edited by Amy Newmark and Alex Kajitani, a California Teacher of the Year, and national finalist, the themes range from “Teaching with Heart” to “The Power of Each Other,” to “That First Year” to “Learning from the Students.” From cover to cover, this edition celebrates the many facets and challenges of not only being a teacher but the lasting impacts on how we learn and grow together.

Gladys Hue passed away in 2010, yet like so many teachers, she will forever be an inspiration!

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