Marilyn Russell's Learning Story


I was promoted to third grade in Public School121 in South Ozone Park in Queens, New York. I was always very skinny so the nurse, and my mother decided it would be a good idea to put me in a special class to see if I could gain some weight. Of course I was very upset to leave my regular class with my friends. Being a kid back in 1939 didn’t give you much choice but to do what you were told.Much to my surprise the kids were very nice, and the teacher was superb. She not only taught us, but really cared about each child. If a child wouldn’t eat their lunch, she would sit with him or her and they would eat lunch together at her desk. This made the child feel special.We had to take a nap during the day, and I fell asleep. She let me stay there until I woke up. Instead of making me feel embarrassed, she was very kind with her choice of words. She took a real interest in every child she cared for, not just teaching reading, writing,and arithmetic. She taught caring, compassion, and consideration for others. We learned to respect her and each other. She never once was nasty to anyone, and this rubbed off on her class.Most importantly she made me realize that I wanted to be just like her. It took me a while (my dad left us), as there were no student loans back then, but I never lost sight of my dream. I worked in banking after graduating from High School. I had the grades to go to College,, but not the finances. I got married, raised four children, and finally started College after my children grew up and left home.Of course by then I was in my late forties. Undaunted by that I completed all my courses, and ended up with a Master’s Degree in Education. I taught for twenty years and retired when I was seventy. The greatest compliment I ever received was from a third grade student who stood up and said,”Mrs. Russell, you are just like one of those old fashioned teachers, but you don’t have that thing in the back of your head.” She meant a hair bun which Miss Meta C. Weber had back then, and I knew I had succeeded in being just like her.I kept in touch with her until she passed away, and taught the same way she did as a memorial to her greatness. I am seventy seven now, and am working with Literacy Volunteers helping illiterate people learn the skills I learned as a child. Who says one person can’t make a difference in a life.Good luck with your book, and God bless you for caring.Sincerely,Marilyn Russell