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Down the hallway

Working in the newspaper business, I have the opportunity to visit many people, places and things in and around the county.

Of course there are certain places I always enjoy going, and I don’t mind telling you our schools are right up there near the top of my list. And so it was this week when I had the opportunity to visit an area school. The door had barely closed behind me, and the memories quickly began tapping me on my shoulder.

The smell hit me first. Most schools smell the same — except for DePue, which always smells of something wonderful cooking/baking/roasting in the school cafeteria. It’s clearly incredible, and every time I’ve gone to DePue around lunch time, I’ve always wished I’d brought my lunch money. Those lunch ladies down there can cook! Anyway ... back to the smell.

As I walked down the dimly-lit hallway, the smell wasn’t any different than the way my schools smelled nearly 50 years ago. It was a distinctive aroma — a combination of old books and sweaty kids coupled with the not-so-distinct scent of success and sometimes failure too. Quite frankly, I wanted to stop and lean up against the wall, close my eyes and breathe deeply for a few minutes, as the memories continued to send me down Memory Lane.

The sights and sounds ... Some kid slamming a locker door in the distance brought me back to reality but not for long. I continued down the hallway, momentarily glancing into classrooms as I passed, where I saw children engaged and teachers doing what they do best. It would have been fun to linger in the present, but for some reason, my mind kept taking me back to yesteryear ...

Favorite teachers’ faces returned quickly — their smiles, their eagerness and excitement about the lessons they taught, their compliments and their encouragement. I doubt I’ll every forget those faces. On the proverbial other side of the hall, there was always that teacher who scared our youthful souls to death — the one rumored to have young boys and girls hidden in her closet — bad boys and girls who she hoarded and snacked on during the summer break. (Don’t write me letters, please. We were kids, and we had vivid imaginations!)

Almost at my destination in the school that day, I could see children on the playground, and teachers watching their antics, as they wiped their brows from the late summer heat; I heard a music class singing a charismatic version of a familiar tune; and I passed the gymnasium where a group of kids were red-faced and sweaty as a ball went flying past the gym door and a teacher’s words of warning bellowed from inside the hot room.

An adult passed me in the hallway and asked me if I needed help ... and for a moment, I wanted to tell her I did. That’s right. I wanted her to tell me how I could return to a place in time, when the biggest worries of the day were what I got on my math test, what the cafeteria was serving for lunch, and which boy liked which girl. Instead, I thanked her for her concern and moved on.

School has started, and while I realize the educational process is considerably different than when I was a child, I have to believe the basics are the same: Kids need great teachers to offer the tools of knowledge to take their students into the future, and teachers need parents to encourage their child and work hand-in-hand with them to ensure these kids are ready for the world. Basically, teachers need parents to support them and then leave them alone to do what they do best — teach our young people.

Bureau County has exceptional schools and phenomenal teachers. The rest of the world should be so lucky. A quick trip down an educational Memory Lane reminded me of that ...

BCR Editor Terri Simon can be reached at tsimon@bcrnews.com. Check out Simon’s new book, “Grandma’s Cookie Jar” at www.boxingdaybooks.com.

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