Wednesday, June 3, 2009
An Awesome Teacher
Well, yesterday was another Italian Catholic Federation meeting. We had dinner together first, which was nice. A lady at my table brought a guest. It turned out this woman worked at my old High School from the year before I graduated until it closed down about five years ago. I did not know her, but I could not resist taking the opportunity to ask her about the passing of one of my favorite teachers.
Last week I wrote a post about three of my favorite teachers. I did not mention that Frau Germaine, my German teacher, passed away about six years after I graduated. I found out in the "Rest in Peace" section of the newsletter. There her name was. Hildegarde Germaine. I always wondered....But there was no way to find out. So, at the end of our meal, I asked.
She said it was her heart. Which was pretty amazing, because if anyone had a good heart metaphorically speaking, it was Hildegarde Germaine....She brought such joy into the classroom. She radiated with love for us. In her class we made up skits, learned pithy sayings, read poetry, listened to soap operas, sang songs....all auf Deutsch (in German). She sympathized with our stupid problems (I'll never get a date because my parents are so strict!), she encouraged us when we had real problems ("My mom has been in the hospital for a week, and the doctors still don't know what is wrong..."), and she laughed when our skits were purposely stupid. She even let us get away with minimal infractions (I got my best friend on German class field trips by claiming she was my cousin....). My best memories of High School include Frau Germaine, whose heart was bigger than my body, which is saying a lot. Really.
The shocker came when the lady at my table asked if I knew Frau Germaine was a Holocaust survivor. No. No I did not. I didn't ask the woman how she knew. She just said that no one at school knew until after she died. I didn't ask any questions. If Frau Germaine wanted me to know, she would have told me.
Today I am amazed that my happiest school memories come from a woman whose memories of her own girlhood had to be the most Godawful experiences. I can't even imagine. I won't try. Frau Germaine was a faithful Catholic who inspired me without me even having a glimmer into her own story. How she could have sympathized with our troubles after what she went through is beyond my comprehension. How she could radiate such joy....my only guess is that her faith sustained her. My respect and love for her increased a hundred fold since last night...and that's saying a lot.
May her soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.