It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.
— Albert Einstein
The best way to describe my 8th grade science teacher, Mrs. Loudermilt, would be to say that Ms. Frizzle had come to life. I’m still not entirely convinced that author JoAnna Cole did not indeed base her character off of one Mrs. Loudermilt, whom wore white lab coats so she could carry both a snake and a piece of candy in her pocket. Her walls were covered in posters and quotes of Albert Einstein and the counters were filled to capacity with chemistry beakers, bunsen burners, metal pans, snake aquariums, student microscopes, and in the corner I swear there was a miniature version of the hubble telescope. Just looking at her classroom made you believe that the cure for any disease could be created in there.
Mrs. Loudermilt was serious about teaching Science. She had taken Science and turned it into almost a way of life for us during the 90 minute block we had with her. Science was not simply reading from the textbook; it was about making ice cream to teach about temperatures, to showcase the demonstrative properties of water being a solid/liquid/gas. But we did more than just make ice cream; the biggest lesson of the day was that learning could actually be fun.
There was a tactility to her teachings, and with it also came the best sense of humor. We all thought she was a bit crazy, a true mad scientist if you will, but there was nothing mad about her.
No, there was a kindness behind that sneaky grin and she was constantly pulling pranks. It was not unusual for Mrs. Loudermilt to throw candy in classrooms as she walked down the hall just so she could disrupt the the other educator’s teachings. After one such instance our English teacher vowed that she would retaliate. Now, I may or may not have suggested to our English teacher that we concoct a plan to have all of us walk out of Mrs. Loudermilt’s class while she was in the middle of teaching. So the next day when the clock hit a certain time, we all just stood up and walked out of her class leaving her speechless, but laughing all the same.
But Mrs. Loudermilt was never one to be bested so in response she had the English teacher’s classroom furniture removed while she was at lunch. Once again, I may or may not have suggested the idea to Mrs. Loudermilt. And because I may or may not have participated in such removal of furniture, it did not mean that I didn’t completely adore my English teacher; however, now I was in the middle of these two pranks so it was only natural that the very next morning both my English teacher and my Science teacher had called me into the school’s office.
Together they had cooked up an elaborate scheme citing I had been the cause of everything from vandalism of school property to blatant insubordination. I was horrified! I mean, for crying out loud they had just as much a part of those pranks as I had and here they were telling me that the principal had found out and that they weren’t going to take the blame but instead shift it onto me. But it was when they got to the sentencing of my alleged crimes, that Mrs. Loudermilt finally started laughing. She honestly laughed until she had tears in her eyes before she hugged me and said “You are good, but I’ll always be the master at pulling pranks.” That was the day I knew I had the best teacher in the world, even if it was for Science.
The rest of the school year passed with more classroom experiments, Nova videos, and yes even pranks with squirt guns and silly string. On the last day of school I rolled Mrs. Loudermilt’s car with toilet paper and while we laughed about it, on the inside I was crying.
It was December and I was now a senior in high school. I had been working on some homework with the t.v. playing in the background when Dixie Carter’s character had made some snide remark and instantly it made me think: that sounds just like something Mrs. Loudermilt would have said. Instantly I wrote down the quote on a piece of notebook paper along with the words, ‘I heard this, and couldn’t help but think of you.’ and something like ‘I hope all is well with you’.
Honestly, I have no idea what compelled me to do so because I hadn’t seen nor spoken to Mrs. Loudermilt in almost four years. In my eyes the woman was old (she was really only in her 30’s) so she had probably taught thousands of kids by now and more than likely she didn’t even remember me. But then I was fetching the phone book to see if there were any Loudermilt’s listed. I didn’t know which Loudermilt was her, but I figured since there were only 4 listed they must all know each other. Randomly picking one, the letter was mailed with no real expectations other than hoping it made it to the right Loudermilt. Much to my surprise, two days later I received a Christmas card. Mrs. Loudermilt did indeed remember me, and more than that she had missed me; well more like missed my antics, but I’d take it. And thus began a series of correspondences. One afternoon Mrs. Loudermilt even showed up at my job to take me to lunch so we could discuss my collegiate opportunities.
Over the years, I had become a master of disguises. Whether I was hiding actual bruises or the emotional trauma, I had never let anyone know what my home life was really like; however, Mrs. Loudermilt seemingly had a sixth sense and she began to ask questions. Nothing invasive, but it was enough to place small cracks in the facade I had held together for so long. I didn’t, nor could I tell her everything, but she was smart and she eventually read through the lines.
On May 30th, 1997, I walked through the front door of Mrs. Loudermilt’s home. She took me into the living room and said “We have two guest rooms. Pick one.” I was astonished, initially not believing the gift that was being offered. Less than two months later, her and her husband legally adopted me. For Mrs. Loudermilt, it was not Rocket Science or any Science at all; it was about saving a child.
Charlotte is a former educator who believes anything is truly possible. Four years ago, she suffered a spinal injury that has changed her life, but not her attitude; never give up on your dreams as they are the foundation of hope that you will need to be successful. She is fortunate to have a loving partner, four dogs, and two cats: they buy a lot of dog food and litter. You can read more from Charlotte on her blog, and follow her on twitter.