Once a Teacher, Always a Teacher

by Andy Wood on June 3, 2010

in Five LV Laws, Insight, Life Currency, Principle of Legacy, Turning Points

One of the dogwood trees my grandmother and I planted about 35 years ago.

The Leader of the Band is tired, and his eyes are growing old,

But his blood runs through my instrument, and his song is in my soul

My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man

I’m just a living legacy to the Leader of the Band.

-Dan Fogelberg

Alison had that look in her eye.  Half smile, half dead-serious, she walked up and to me and said, “Some of us have been talking.  And we’d like to ask you a favor.”

“What’s that?” I asked cautiously – bracing myself for, well, anything.

“We don’t know either of these people, and we don’t think they knew Grandmother all that well. We were wondering if you would say something – you know, more personal – in the service.”

Alison is my cousin, and she’d just asked the unthinkable – to stand up in front of a couple hundred family and friends and eulogize a family legend.

I’d done plenty of funerals before, but this one was different.  This was family. And not just any family member.  It was Grandmother, for cryin’ out loud.

I said I’d do it.

My grandmother retired from teaching in 1965 after teaching mostly second grade in one place (Millry, Alabama) for 22 years.  But her resume reached much further back than that.  In fact, while she “made tenth grade” in Chatom, Alabama, she simultaneously taught first grade in Deer Park, Alabama, 19 miles away.  I have no idea how she got back and forth.  This was somewhere around 1917, and they had no vehicle.

Even though I was just six years old when she turned the lights off in her classroom for the last time, for as long as I lived, Leonora Wright Wood was a teacher to me, and to so many others, throughout my young life.

  • She taught me to read before I ever started school – supplying me with a continuous source of Sally, Dick and Jane books.
  • She taught me to write in cursive before I ever started third grade.
  • She taught me that three-colored cats were always female, and to love animals of all kinds.
  • She taught me the value of infectious laughter.
  • She taught me why bobwhites are called bobwhites, and how to recognize their call.
  • She taught me how to cream fresh corn and shell butterbeans (wasn’t real thrilled with that one).
  • She taught me how to paint a birdhouse.
  • She taught me to never stop learning; she started painting long after she retired.
  • She taught me how to recognize a redbud tree in the woods, and how to transplant trees.
  • She taught me to love what she called “purty things” like flowers.
  • She taught me that I could get as much satisfaction from saying “Lands sakes” or “sugarfoot” as other people get from saying a lot of really ugly things.
  • She taught me how to build a fire in the fireplace.
  • She taught me to l-o-v-e music – especially music played on a piano.
  • She taught me to love to sing.
  • She taught me to love children, primarily by example.
  • She taught me that you’re never too old for grace to be amazing.

But one lesson has remained – unnoticed until the day I was supposed to speak at her funeral.  As I looked around the family, I realized that at least 12 (today many more than that) family members were involved somehow in education.  That’s nearly half.  And that doesn’t count the Sunday School teachers, Red Cross instructors, pastors (me), or consultants – all of whom taught somebody something on a regular basis.

In “Leader of the Band,” Dan Fogelberg wrote of his father that “his blood runs through my instrument and his song is in my soul.”  I can say I have witnessed something like that as well.  My grandmother taught us all – formally and informally – to love to teach.  And scattered out across the country, from Florida to Oregon, her blood runs through us all as her teaching legacy lives.

She would have marveled to see some of the ways we do it today.  When a student I’ve never seen sends me an email explaining why her paper (which isn’t printed on paper) will be late (and not delivered by the post office or handed in personally), I get to be a voice of encouragement and accountability – all electronically, in locations all over the world.

But had there been an Internet when she graced the earth, as sure as redbuds have heart-shaped leaves, she would have found a way to use it to teach somebody.

Once a teacher, always a teacher.  And I can’t think of a greater legacy.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Mattie June 3, 2010 at 8:57 am

Andy, that’s a great, GREAT eulogy for your grandmother. Sounds like she was an amazing woman! She obviously touched many lives, and like you said, will continue to do so. Thanks for sharing this bro!
.-= Mattie´s last blog ..As One Door Closes… =-.

Butch June 3, 2010 at 9:38 am

Wow sounds like quite a Lady, and you are quite a Teacher yourself.
enjoyed the coffee

Tory Minus June 4, 2010 at 10:01 am

This is beautiful, Andy! And I know Mrs. Leonora is so proud of YOU and the other remarkable people in your family. I was a young girl when she passed, but I do remember her sweet smile and soft voice. She is one of those special women from our church that will be remembered as a loving and caring person.

Thank you for sharing the link to your website…I’m definitely a follower now. Have a wonderful weekend! Tory

Andy Wood June 5, 2010 at 8:31 pm

@Mattie – Thanks, bro. I appreciate the encouragement, as well as the example you have set to impact lives as well.

@Butch – She was, my friend. And I appreciate the encouragement.

@Tory – Thank you for your kind words. One of my favorite memories was when I was 5-6, and she would gather us all around the piano (Nita was there before she moved) and we would sing to the top of our lungs!

Thanks also for reading and subscribing. Come back often and pass the word! 🙂

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