A Familiar Topic

Mrs. Schwer died this week.

Who is Mrs. Schwer, you ask?

She was my seventh grade teacher — simply one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. While she was my primary seventh grade teacher, she also taught me math in both sixth and eighth grades.

I went to a catholic elementary school. Small community. Close community. And, since my mom taught at the same school, I got to know the teachers a little better than most. Both a blessing and a curse, I suppose.

Fair but firm — that’s how another classmate described Mrs. Schwer. And I don’t think you could be more accurate in describing her teaching style. But this fair but firm teacher also had a funny side. Like when she’d throw an eraser across the room at a student who wasn’t paying attention.

Now, this isn’t like an old catholic school story where the eraser would be hurled across the room. It was a fun, playful way to get across a strong message — and it worked. Just ask a few of my classmates.

Mrs. Schwer did more than create memories. She preserved them.

She always had her camera around her neck, ready to capture the latest and greatest moments for any of the classes. We never really appreciated this — until graduation night. That’s when, sitting in the church, we’d see a slide show of our eight years at St. Michael’s, and there’s no question Mrs. Schwer took 90 percent of those photos.

I wonder where all those slides are today. Because I would give anything to see the slide show from my graduation back in 1984.

It’s hard to put my finger on one element of her style that made her a favorite. It was the total experience. The way she cared about her students. The way she made it fun. She was in charge. There was no question about that. But nobody was treated differently. Everyone was treated the same. Do your work, and give your best effort. That’s all she asked. It was really that simple.

That’s just one of the reasons why I have a lot of memories about St. Michael’s. A lot of memories about Mrs. Schwer.

I remember other strange things, too. Like when certain girls in our class tried to outwit her by wearing make-up (you certainly couldn’t do that at a catholic elementary school!). The girls would come in to the class and she’d inspect them before they were allowed to sit down.

I remember her hands — probably more than anything for reasons I can’t explain. Hands that were always covered with chalk, rough and full of experience. So many lesson plans done. So many blackboards. So many overhead projectors. I remember her hands.

I remember her outfits — so often in pants. So often with a turtle neck or sweater. So often with a jacket. I remember her hair. Always short. Always gray.

And I remember her smile.

Always shining.

One Comment on “A Familiar Topic”

  1. Claudia Mattero Hoddersen says:

    Wow! What a powerful story about an incredible teacher who touched many hearts. Those are the stories that made SMS an incredible building block in our lives. Thank you to whom ever wrote this.

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