Adventure in Learning

While most of my blog entries are about hikes and paddles and treks, every now and then it is about something else. Today I write about the fact I love to read and write. That my father instilled in me a love for, and pride for my ability, to read.  He always did the children’s crossword puzzle in the Sacramento Bee with me as a small child and then monthly word power quizzes from The Reader’s Digest. Seems silly to say out loud. Doesn’t it. That a person would be proud of being able to read well and talk about that pride in their 50s. And I loved to read so much I wanted to write stories like I read.

We were a very verbal and expressive household. Dad told epic tales of growing up in Bellingham in the countryside. Imagination stimulants like how he helped an old guy with frozen up hips with his honey bees. Dad loved honey bees all his life and always swore bee venom helped alleviate arthritis pain.  Mom told of growing up in a logging camp and being shy and not liking to read out loud at school because she lisped and got teased. But man when she sat down at the piano and banged out the chords for a good old rendition of Cool Water there was no shyness and no lisp! Kathlene always wanted to do roll playing games when we were tiny tots. But she made up her dialog and mine. I was happy enough to just go along with it.

Brother Joe wrote on the school paper and was a great story teller, even if he did laugh so hard half the time that you had to wait impatiently with baited breath to really find out what he was saying.

I went to Sunny Terrace Elementary School in Seattle. What stands out is fourth grade. First was a fun time, but second and third were sort of hard. I didn’t quite feel connected with the teachers. Mrs. Hergert had been my first grade teacher and I suppose I got used to her and wanted it to remain the same. I am not good at change. But second grade dished up Mrs. Wilcox. She was tall and stern and seemed removed. Mrs. Mansburger from third grade was mean and didn’t like my hand writing so she put it up on the bulletin board as an example…of bad work. The only good thing about that was it caused a legendary appearance by my mother, who walked into the room unannounced during a lesson. She walked right over to the bulletin board. The class was by then completely quiet aside from Mrs. Mansburger having  offered “Can I help you?” Mom reached up and removed my scarlet letter….and Mark Lawrence’s too just for good measure. She turned, looked across the tiny heads of riveted third graders and proclaimed “And I never want to see Karen’s work on the board again unless it is because it is the best.” With that, she turned on the heel of her shiny pump with her back combed hair and perfectly coordinated outfit and was gone.  After that it was instant celebrity! When she came on to the school property, all the kids were in awe.

After the long summer between 3rd and 4th grade, we all piled into our new status as a member of the “upper grades”. My class was to be in the far end building right next to Mrs. Cole’s class. My sister was in Mrs. Cole’s class so I had the comfort of help being in proximity in case I needed it.  I had a new teacher. Her name was Mrs. Reeder. Linda Reeder. She was young and tall and pretty and had this yellow dress that I will never forget. But she also had all this really “cool stuff” for us to do with reading. We had a reading comprehension module called  SRA and were challenged to read as many books as we could and do projects after each one; dioramas, reports….more that I cannot remember. I can still smell the class room on a rainy day holed up with my book, dreaming of my post book project and wondering what book to read next. I was president of the Matt Christopher fan club as well as the Beverly Cleary fan club. I read all the “Trick” books (The Limerick Trick, The Home Run Trick etc.) I even got a letter back from the author Scott Corbett  when I wrote after reading one of those books. Yes, that was a choice too, write to the author.

Mrs. Reeder remains famous around the Whelan house. Back in 1970 teachers hand wrote their report cards. There was a place on each one for comments, which I was always most interested in reading. Upon receiving my card I burst into the house filled with excitement, smile from ear to ear for inside was THIS little gem: “Karen has the gift of gab.” A higher compliment I could not receive. More proud I could not be. In a family as expressive as mine I had come into my own. With a father now known as The Watch Maker because when you asked him what time it was he told you how to build the watch, I had the GIFT of gab. GIFT! My parents were kind enough not to burst my bubble and let me in on the truth, which was that I talked to much and as a result was a bit of an interruption for the teacher. And here I am over 40 years later working in a profession that requires me to gab and write and express.  Thank you Mrs. Reeder, for letting me be me and find all the expression I needed!

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About WhelanTrek

The mountains are in my blood and Everest has been a symbol to so many areas of my life. I blog about adventures and life in between.

Posted on May 28, 2014, in Hiking and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Don Carmignani

    Excellent blog entry, Karen. Honest insight into what it’s like for students in school..Amidst the good and the bad teachers shines Ms. Reeder!
    There is value in having both because it makes one appreciate the good ones all the more! The mixture is also helpuf:to students as they get introduced to on-the-job challenge of dealing with bad bosses. I didn’t intend to say all teachers are great and it’s all the parent’s fault if kids are disruptive. Most students are very cooperative, like you, and show excellent parenting, but some are not. Even good parents can have distruptive kids. Gene roulette has something to do with that.

    Thanks for this excellent blog, Karen!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, Karen you have overwhelmed me with this post. I had no idea the result of my struggles had created such a positive and lasting affect.

    During my third year of teaching at Mount view I married Tom Reeder, who taught across the hall from me. At the end of the year I was forced to change schools, because married couples were not allowed in the same building. I ended up at Sunny Terrace. Early in my career, I was still struggling with how to teach reading, but I knew I hated the three reading group method. Tom and I devised our own system of Independent Reading, which we called Reeder’s Reading, and we team taught it in two different buildings. We used the SRA as a skills component, and taught kids how to select reading materials on their levels, and just learn to love reading. It was the first time some kids had ever read a book.

    For kids like you, it was an opportunity to take flight, and you did. I love that you remember all those elements that went into the process!

    I had never heard to story of your mother’s visit to school in third grade. I didn’t have much contact with the primary teachers, but they didn’t seem like much fun even to me. I am always appalled by stories like yours and the posted writing paper. Some teachers do dumb things. I like to hope that it is better now, but in fact teachers are just like any other cross section of society, the good the bad, and the in between.

    My “gift of gab”.comment was of course a gentle poke at your talkativeness, and while I felt a comment was appropriate, I did not want to stifle you or . hurt your feelings. I see that it had just the opposite effect!

    We never know what our impact is on others as we go through our lives. It has been wonderful to reconnect with you after all these years and read about those early years in such a positive light.

    Thank you. Your writing is wonderful, and what a terrific person you have turned out to be. Your wonderful parents did a great job. So did you.


    Liked by 1 person

    • I loved school. And even my perception of the second and third grades was from a child and not as realistic as an adult would view it. Mrs Wilcox had been Ms. Lund and got married that year. She likely had other kids she connected with. Mansperger had good qualities too. I was just not her cup of tea. But I was not the only kid in there. Others may sing her praises and rightly so. But my years in 4th and 5th grade saved me from myself and let me be ok being me. Sometime between 1st and 6th grade that has to happen so Jr High can be survived! HA! I am thankful for your willingness to be innovative. I am thankful that you were a creative teacher who looked for the good in us. I will message you soona nd we can have breakfast when I am in town!


  3. What a wonderful post! I came here via Linda Reeder’s blog and will put you on my blog roll. I am so glad you have positive memories about her class.


    • Thank you! I was fortunate. We all liked her. I never heard kids complaining about her at recess or when we were “hanging out” at each other’s houses as kids. That was not true of all the teachers. As a matter of fact, we were all not so nice to Mr. Huntsinger in sixth grade. He didn’t deserve us awful kids. I do hope you enjoy WhelanTrek. I am readying for a trip to hike to Machu Picchu in Peru!


  4. Mrs. Cole was still there? Or another Mrs Cole perhaps? Let’s see… 19… 66. Sixth grade. She was very into what they called ‘conservation’ at the time.


  5. Oh Mr Huntsinger too: I was in his class in fifth grade there


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