A Mentor Who Once Danced Vaguely Like A Showgirl
Today, I’m remembering my mentor in high school. My mentor was not the theatre teacher, and could have been the special ed. department head, had he not been so busy, nor was it anyone associated with dance. My mentor was someone I waited to meet for two and a half years.
You see, the first semester of my freshman year put me in Mr. Edmund’s Honors English class. (He was awesome, too, but I had too much of a crush on him to actually take anything he said seriously.) He told us, as a class and at the beginning of the school year, that we’d do well to be working our butts off in these Honors English classes. He also told us that all that work would be more than worth it just to have Mrs. Boggess as our AP teacher four years later.
Boy, was he right; it was the only thing he said that I internalized.
Sticking through that program is the one thing I am most proud of academically. Even when I got a D my first semester Sophmore year because I completely forgot a major project until the day the teacher asked us to turn it in.
By all the rules of the program, they should have kicked me down to the next highest level of classes; I suspect there was discussion about me by the teachers around lunch.
By the time I got to the AP class that was taught by Mrs. Boggess, I was disgusted by my Honors classmates. There were two classes of us by then, and I knew all of them simply because of the shuffle of kids through class schedules through three years. I watched them as they shared weekly vocabulary answers freely as if it were spit. Many of them asked me if they could copy my hard work because they didn’t do it or thought it was too hard. Back in our freshman year, I shared once of twice because I thought it was a friendly gesture. When I found they were no more friendly than before, and even haughty instead, I stopped.
I’m glad I did, because halfway through our senior year, after our first big paper, Mrs. Boggess discovered that almost everyone in her two AP classes had plagiarized their papers. If I remember right, it was everyone but three girls–Neelam, Jenny, and me. I wasn’t surprised in the least. Mrs. Boggess was surprised and disgusted enough to retire right after we graduated, as a direct result of this incident.
Despite all that negativity, her classes were worth it. I worked my butt off to get to her class, and I worked my butt off in her class. Her lectures were mesmerizing, a combination of history, funny, quirky facts, and answers we’d need to know for the next tough test.
One particularly memorable lesson still sticks with me today, and funny enough, it wasn’t from my AP class. I had the privilege of taking more than one class from her; the second was College Study Techniques. It was only because I had remembered Mr. Edmund’s advice three years ago that I enrolled in it. There, among other things, she taught and tested us on the most commonly misspelled words in the English Language, all one hundred of them.
One day, Mrs. Boggess decided to focus on the most misspelled word ever. She told us to imagine Miss Piggy in a showgirl costume; she could get away with that because it was only mildly suggestive. She was wearing a long skirt or dress that day, so as she stood next to her desk, she wasn’t actually being suggestive herself; Mrs. Boggess then demonstrated the can-can, and as she danced, she recited the letters of the word “RECEIVE”:
(One leg kicked across) R-E,
(The other leg kicked across) C-E,
(Stand in place,
bend knees to three bounces while rocking to beat,
hands splayed out under chin) I-V-E.
She then gave more explanation and then told us all to stand up. When some of us hesitated, she told us that we’d all get ten participation points if we did this. Well, these being students who will plagiarize for good grades, that got them all standing in the aisles that were lined with backpacks. (Jenny and I were up at first suggestion; we ((still)) love being theatrical and need little prompting to do so)
I don’t remember whether everyone in the class did the dance along with Miss Boggess, but I can still see the moves in my head and hear the chant rhythm whenever I write out the word RECEIVE.
Most of the time, she treated me like all the rest of her students, as she should have. I didn’t get great grades, but that’s because all my work was my own. She acquiesced to writing staff recommendations at the end of the year for seniors, but she didn’t do it for everyone who asked. Naturally, I asked her for one, and she very warmly accepted. I still have it, along with the correspondence she and I had during that month after she retired.
I’ve written a letter to her recently, with no response yet. I now consider calling her–during research paper time, she gave her AP classes her home phone number so we could call her if we had citing or organization questions. I still take joy in her handwriting, her specific encouragement, and in my memories of her. She is smart in many different ways, funny in other different ways, and I loved watching her do what she loved: teach.