Another school year is about to break out. That automatically whips me into an educational state of mind. And that somehow brought me around to the old expression, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”……

Listen, I can’t name two of the original astronauts, but I remember every crease in Miss Carolyn Blades’ face. I remember how her hair was pulled back, how her dark rimmed glasses framed her face and how every dress she wore came down almost to her ankles. I also remember how kind and soft spoken she was that first day when my heart was leaping against my chest cavity. I will never forget her patience. Or how much time we spent with the faded “A-B-C Chart” that lined the classroom walls above the blackboards. And when I finished the year with perfect attendance, she called me up to the front of the class and gave me a flashlight.

Miss Carolyn was my first grade teacher. Believe me, she could…..and did!

I can’t tell you who won the World Series year before last, but I remember Miss Dorothy Booth telling us we could be anything we wanted to be. She was big on Spelling Bees, Multiplication Tables and taking turns at the water fountain. She gave me a brand new softball for not missing a day in the second grade.

I don’t know who is president of CBS today, but I remember Miss Belle Alexander sitting in one of those little chairs in the Blue Bird Reading Class nodding an affirmation as I correctly pronounced galoshes. There was not a word in the world that Miss Belle didn’t know! And she was determined to teach every one of them to us before we graduated from the third grade!

I can’t name the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, but I remember Miss Mildred Dinwiddie loved the fourth grade into us.

I don’t know who the governor of California is, but I remember how Miss Thelma Cox, the next year, played like she was mean and we’d better do what she said. But she was really an old softie at heart.

I can’t name one Miss America contestant in the last ten years, but I remember Mary Ann Jackson telling us the sixth grade would help prepare us for junior high. She was well on the way to being my favorite teacher…..until she made us memorize that poem about “Little Boy Blue.”

I have no idea what movie won “Best Picture” at this years Academy Awards, but I can name every single teacher I had in high school. From Miss Barbara Clark, whose love of reading opened up a whole new world of adventure for us, to Mr. Arlie C. “Chuck” Berry (and his rocking amoebas), who got us though chemistry lab without blowing up anything or anybody, my hat is eternally off to them.

I can’t name either of the Bush’s Vice-Presidents, but I can talk all day long about Coach Louis Scott running me till I dropped dead. And then getting up and giving him two more laps. Chick King taught me to roll that top hand right at contact, a technique I’ve passed on to a thousand young baseball players. Coach John Camp demanded nothing but my best effort on every free throw, rebound, defensive drill, classroom test, taking out the garbage at home…..

I won’t live long enough to repay any of them for the service they rendered to me.

Here’s another old expression, “If you can read this, thank a teacher.” That is true of course. But it’s about two subjective adjectives and a dangling participle past narrow minded!

How about, “If you can think a lick, thank a teacher.” “If you see the world beyond the tip of your nose, thank a teacher.” “If you immediately think who, what, when, where and how, thank a teacher.” “If you don’t fall for the first guy who comes along handing out ‘almost completely free’ oil wells, thank a teacher.” “If you’ve got enough ‘education’ to get a real job, thank a teacher.” “If your journey on this earth has been enhanced with a thoughtful process that allows for an intelligent understanding of life around you, thank a teacher.” I could go on and on and on, but if you’ve had just one single, solitary genuine teacher cross your path—you get my drift.

McKenzie, Tennessee, is not where I was born and raised or, as we say down south, “where I came from”.....IT’S WHO I AM!

Today’s story is a nod to the people who made that so.