The Impact Of A Teacher

My Life Begins…In Second Grade

Awhile back I was reading a devotional by Dr. David Jeremiah, when a paragraph jumped out at me:  “God sends various people into our life.  Some encourage us.  Some rebuke us.  Some help us recover.  They all play a part in shaping us to be the person God wants us to be, and we should be thankful for them.  What people have left a mark on your life?”

I can think of a number of people who have had an impact on my life.  But when I read that last sentence, my mind immediately goes  back in time to a little brick building, and Mrs. Masinda.

I never knew her first name.  I didn’t know how old she was, but in my mind she was ancient.  Perhaps it was her gray hair, or the clunky black thick-heeled shoes she wore that were just like my grandmother’s.  Perhaps it was the stern yet kind way she ran her classroom.

The year was 1962.  I was in second grade at Union Elementary School, and Mrs. Masinda was my teacher.

Sometimes it seems as if my life began in second grade.  I have no memories at all of anything before then (one therapist suggested that they were probably blocked due to abuse or a traumatic event, but I have no idea if that is true or not).  At any rate, I do have very clear memories of Union Elementary School.  It was a squat little brick building with four classrooms on the first floor, four classrooms on the second floor, and a cafeteria in the basement.  In the back there was a rickety metal fire escape (which we were never allowed on), and a large field for a playground.

Even back then it was unusual to have such a small school.  And the morning routine of our class was very unusual indeed.

Walking To Union Elementary School

Mrs. Masinda’s house was a few doors down the street.  Our class would gather in front of the school until the last bus unloaded.  Then we would all walk together down the sidewalk until we were opposite her house.  One student (we went in alphabetical order) would cross the street, climb the stairs to the porch, and knock on the heavy dark door.  The door would promptly open and Mrs. Masinda would step out, her handbag on her arm.  The student would escort her across the street (after looking both ways, of course), and we would all walk together back to the school and our classroom.

We followed this ritual every day, rain or shine.  Each of us looked forward to our turn, considering it a great honor.  I never wondered about it; I think it was a tradition started by a previous class.  I just thought we did it because she was so old!

I don’t remember the specific lessons we had, but I do recall it was a generally happy classroom.  The bullying I experienced throughout my school years had already begun.  I was chubby, awkward, and incredibly nearsighted (though that wasn’t discovered until two years later).  This made me an easy target, but in Mrs. Masinda’s classroom I felt safe. 

I already knew how to read by second grade.  In fact, I was the best reader in the class, except for Beth McDonald, who loved horse books and always read during class, her book discreetly held below her desk on her lap.

Union Elementary School was special, and one of the things that made it so was that it was right next door to the Wood Memorial Library, which in my young eyes was the most beautiful building in town.  It too was a brick building, with stone steps and four massive white pillars in the front,  There were tall windows which let in plenty of light, and inside the lobby an elegant stairway led to the second floor (which we never saw).  Directly ahead lay a long counter and the librarian’s desk.

Fridays At The Library

On the first Friday of the school year, after lunch and recess, Mrs. Masinda lined us up and marched us next door to the library.  In the small lobby she gathered us around her and shushed us.  When we had quieted down, she told us that we were in a library, which is “a building full of treasures called books.”  Then in an excited– but quiet– voice, she announced, “and all you need to borrow any of these treasures is one of these!” and she dramatically held up a little blue card.

Then she lined us up at the counter and the librarian gave each of us our very own little blue card.  We were so excited!

Mrs. Masinda led us to the Children’s section.  She sat in a rocking chair and instructed us to “Go find a treasure, then sit down and read!”  We scattered to find our books, then sprawled on the floor at her feet.

And that’s how we spent every Friday afternoon that year.  We all looked forward to the end of the school week.  Sometimes Mrs. Masinda would read to us, and sometimes we’d just read to ourselves.  If someone had trouble finding a book of interest, Mrs. Masinda always had a suggestion.  She was the one who introduced me to the Hardy Boys, and Tom Swift, and Treasure Island.

I knew how to read, but it was Mrs. Masinda who instilled in me a love for reading which opened up a lifetime of learning.  And I discovered that, when life became too painful for a lonely, hurting little boy, the pages of a book could provide a retreat.  I could go to faraway places and enjoy all sorts of exciting adventures.

Second grade ended, and I went on to third grade, and then to other schools.  I never saw Mrs. Masinda again.

The Impact Of A Teacher

When I was a freshman in college, I went home one weekend for a visit, and my mother informed me that Mrs. Masinda had passed away. 

I cried when I heard the news.

For awhile I planned on a career as a librarian.  But the Lord redirected my steps, and instead I became a teacher.  I enjoyed that ministry for 44 years, and just like Mrs. Masinda, I always sought to instill in my students a love for reading.

We seldom realize the influence we have on those around us.  I’m sure Mrs. Masinda didn’t know the effect she had on me, and how she impacted my life.  I have no idea if she was a Christian, but I certainly hope so.  I would like to think that, when it’s my turn to go Home, she will be one of those waiting at the gates to welcome me.

Well, that’s my story.  Now it’s your turn.  Dr. Jeremiah says God puts various people in our life.  I know God put Mrs. Masinda in mine.  What people have left a mark on your life?  And perhaps more important, what impact are you having on the lives of those around you?


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6 thoughts on “The Impact Of A Teacher”

  1. You are a wonderful and caring teacher!!! I remember Sunday School and when you read a book to us, no one wanted to leave but you kept us coming back by stopping at the right spots. Love it and love reading!!! Your art work is amazing too. Thanks for all the teaching you did/do. You are an awesome teacher & friend!!! God certainly used you to impact so many lives. Thanks!!!

    • It’s so great to see you and other former students loving and serving the Lord! That’s the best blessing I could ever get.

  2. great story. I know you had a great impact on our children. In fact we had Mr. Tracy at the supper table for three years as they passed through the fifth grade at Wildwood.

  3. Wonderful post, Tim. My Mrs. Masinda in my life was my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Andrews. She, also, was “old” and kind to me. I have never forgotten her.

  4. What a lovely post! This line had me cracking up “I just thought we did it because she was so old!”


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