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Columnist: Diamonds lost in the ‘bling’

The Kardashians ride in their Rolls Royce down the streets of Hollywood surrounded by flashing cameras while money rains down through their sun roof. They are a cultural dynasty that have done little, that I can figure, except to “bling.”

Years ago, Mrs. Lorraine Smith drove to LaGrange High School every day in an old ’50s-something Buick to teach science. There was only the morning sun beaming through her car windows shining on stacks of graded papers and books. She, the educator, had no need for “bling” because she was a diamond.

I moved to LaGrange at the beginning of my sophomore year of high school. I was assigned to Mrs. Smith’s biology class. I had heard stories about how hard and disciplined of a teacher she was.

I was savvy enough to recruit Sally, my dear friend, to be my biology partner. At 15, Sally knew she would study medicine and anyone that knew her, knew that as a fact.

Sally and I did well in biology. I rode her coattails, found Mrs. Smith kind and understanding. I thought my sciences were now over until college.

When I went to register for my classes my senior year, my mother wanted me to sign up for the easiest courses to get my GPA up.

That was fine by me. I knew I wasn’t “smart” like others. My self-confidence was never high. I knew my limitations in life. My dreams were not lofty. I settled myself to accept who and what I was.

When Mrs. Smith saw the courses I was registering for, she took the list my mother had given me and threw it in the trash.

To my horror she registered me into every difficult class she could find.

My mother was aghast, I was in a panic, while Mrs. Smith remained calm with a steely resolve.

“Why are you doing this, Mrs. Smith?!” I almost yelled.

“Lynn, I always thought you have something in you that you don’t believe you have. Trust me.”

She arranged to tutor me after school in chemistry. She taught me how to study and take notes. She instilled in me the courage to dream and not put limits on what I could do in life.

Without this gem of a woman, I am not sure I would have ever had a career that would feed and educate my children. Without this diamond I would never have turned my lack of confidence into sheer determination.

Dr. Fred Freeman was my first college English professor. English 101 was a course in creative writing at LaGrange College.

The first day of class, Dr. Freeman told all of us to write a two-page short story.

“Don’t worry, I am not going to count this as a grade. I just need to see how much work I have to do with this group!” Dr. Freeman said laughing.

He continued. “If someone makes a B-plus, then I will count it. I have given very few of those, and I will never give you an A because then you don’t need me!”

Over a week passed. I frankly had almost forgotten about the little Christmas story I had written with a No. 2 pencil on two sheets of notebook paper.

“Well, I now know I have to do some work in here!” Dr. Freeman said as he held up a handful of stories. “However, there are two students I need to see in my office. They got a B-plus.”

When he called my name, I really thought he might have made a mistake.

I met with him later that day.

Dr. Freeman asked me to join a writing seminar in Connecticut along with the seniors majoring in English for the following summer.

“Why?” I retorted as my freshman eyes became saucers.

“You need to write! I also think you need to change your major.”

I will never forget his face as I explained to him that I would be getting married and dropping out of school.

When I would occasionally see Dr. Freeman around LaGrange afterwards, he would always ask, “How is the writing going? Did you work on that story and get it published?”

“No, Dr. Freeman, but I promise I will,” I would guiltily say.

Dr. Freeman died before reaching his 40th birthday. I returned to college and would think of my sweet professor with every essay I wrote. He is one of the reasons I write today. I had made a promise to a diamond.

When my granddaughter started first grade in Pompano Beach, Florida, her mother had just been diagnosed with cancer. It was a terrifying time for a 6 year old.

I remember dropping her off at school many times to the smiling, hopeful face of Mrs. Sandy Hall. One day, she noticed Avery was quiet and sad as she sat at her desk.

In the middle of the class, she stopped, went over to her and whispered, “Avery, if you need a moment, why don’t you take a break and sit in the back of the classroom. I do understand.”

That is the way it was between Mrs. Hall and Avery for the rest of that year. Avery, to this day, credits Sandy Hall as being her favorite teacher. I can guarantee that this diamond will never be forgotten.

It is the unsung teachers in our lives that mold us into the human beings we were intended to be. Great educators are the foundational rocks of our society. These rocks don’t “bling” and do little, they are instead diamonds that light the world with knowledge and hope.

As you drop your child off to start a new school year, don’t be in a hurry to get back and see what the Kardashian “bling” is doing today, look instead at the diamond who is educating your child.

It is much better viewing.

This is dedicated to all the teachers that do so much to shape our world every single day. Thank you.

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Lynn Walker Gendusa

Contributing columnist

Lynn Walker Gendusa is a former LaGrange resident who currently resides in Roswell. She may be reached at lwgendusa@bellsouth.net.