Jane Lee's Learning Story


To Ms. Helen Elliot, an inspiring teacher that I had in the late fifties at Ramapo Regional High School in Franklin Lakes, New JerseyWhen I left eighth grade, I was listed in the yearbook as a chatterbox and ‘Despair of the faculty!’ I was a pain and always trying to find ways to create problems, today we might say ‘creative’. I settled down a little my first two years at Ramsey High but I still remember the time a teacher accused my ‘group’ of being messy in the cafeteria. The next day I showed up for lunch with a linen tablecloth and candelabra complete with candles. Well, we were assigned to Ramapo, and we struggled with late classes, long bus rides, no real activities, and so on. I was taking business courses so that I could work in a bank like my father or at best be a secretary in some office building. I loved children and did a lot of babysitting; I even started to teach a four and five year old Sunday school class and loved it. I did OK but no one really encouraged me to think about teaching as a career until you came along. You encouraged me to be on the Ring Committee, the Student Council, and the Yearbook staff. I finally found true outlets for all of my excess energy. During my senior year I started to take college prep courses and even ended up in the Honor Society. Because of you, I got the Wyckoff PTA Scholarship when I graduated and it was possible for me to go to Paterson State Teacher’s College, now Paterson State University. College wasn’t that easy because of my ‘secretarial’ background, but I kept thinking that I didn’t want to disappoint you, so I struggled and struggled and even made it into the organization, Who’s Who in America Colleges and Universities, in my senior year. I also belonged to many activities in college, including co-editor of The Beacon, the college newspaper in my junior year. Juniors were editors because of a semester of student teaching in our senior year. Anyway, I graduated in 1962, and accepted my first job teaching first grade in Oakland, NJ. Interesting, our classmate, Jackie Borthwick’s son, was in my first class. While teaching I went to college nights and got my Master’s Degree in 1968. At that time I wanted a change, so I applied for and got a job to teach in Hawaii. My first class, fourth grade, was in Nanakuli on the western side of Oahu. The area where Disney plans to build a large resort. I loved teaching on this homestead area; I had 38 students, most with some Hawaiian background. My second year, I worked as a reading specialist in Maili, close to Nanakuli. At that point, I found Hawaii a bit small and my roommate from San Diego invited me to her parent’s home over the winter break. I applied to teach in various cities in that area, and returned to teach in Chula Vista the following school year. I was back in first grade and I loved it. In December, I met my future husband, a Navy officer. We were married in March, a little more than three months after we met. He left for Viet Nam a month after we married. From Chula Vista we went to Cleveland Ohio, and I taught reading in a parochial school in a special program called ‘Federal Aid to Parochial Education.’ I took off from teaching to raise three children and we moved around a few more times. In 1981 we moved to Pinellas County Florida so that we could be close to my dad who lived in Pasco County Florida. Jon was beginning kindergarten and I thought about teaching again. I subbed for a couple of years and then landed a job teaching reading and language arts in a middle school. I returned to school and took the courses that I needed to teach middle school English. I taught that for seven years as well as a journalism class, I was responsible for the school newspaper. In my early fifties, I was getting bored with my career so I went back to school and took five more classes so that I could be endorsed to teach gifted students. That was my passion; I absolutely loved what I did. Although, I would never qualify to have their IQ, 130 in Florida, I loved being the ‘guide on the side’ as I encouraged these kids to reach their potential as you once encouraged me. In 2006 I retired. Thank you for being such an inspiring teacher and for having faith that we would all be successful, we are. I am just one of so many who you touched in your career, and I think that I turned out OK.