Today I gave a copy of Dave Roman's graphic novel Astronaut Academy
to an 8th grader who asked me for any graphic novels I had. It was the first one I found so I handed it to him and went back to my cabinets to see what else I could find. (I didn't unpack my classroom library this year because of the pandemic and this funky electro-ray light they bring in every night and all the stuff they spray...)
As I scanned the shelves, I heard the student's voice ask in astonishment, "Did you meet the author?"
I turned back around and told him, "I did. Actually, he's a friend. Is it signed?"
"It says, 'To Mrs. Vincent's Awesome Students.'" He showed me the title page with a drawing in silver Sharpie.
A thousand memories flittered through my brain and I smiled. "I've met a lot of authors."
"Really?" He thought for a second. "Wait, so your husband and your kids like to meet athletes and you like to meet authors?"
I nodded, "Yup!"
We discussed how I met authors and which authors I've met and in that moment two things were clear.
1. This year has been so very different. (I know this...but moments like this, when I get a glimpse of what this year could have been without Covid still hit me like a left hook.) Last year, students knew early on about authors and illustrators I've met. While I've done book talks and connected kids with books, it's such a different energy via zoom than it is to be in a space with kids and with books, to hand a student a book, let alone a stack of books. I have missed this energy so much.
2. I'm lucky to have met so many wonderful people in my 19-year career as an educator. Not only authors and illustrators whose work I absolutely adore and appreciate, but educators in all types of different positions who have lifted me up, inspired me, motivated me, encouraged me, taught me. I am so grateful for them!
Which brings me to a celebration of one particular individual who I'm so glad has been part of my journey. The #MarvelousMaryLee Hahn! After 37 years of teaching, Mary Lee is retiring. When I think of Mary Lee, I think of someone who is calm and kind but also fierce and tell-it-like-it-is person.
All of us are conglomerate rocks. We're made up of the people and places and experiences that have been part of our lives. Knowing Mary Lee means I'm more steadfast in keeping humanity in teaching. When there is pressure pushing in from all directions, I go back to taking care of kids as humans who are part of our community, growing them as readers and writers - yes - but most importantly, as engaged, thoughtful citizens of this world we inhabit together.
At a retreat two years ago, Mary Lee told me about different word games she shared with students, which they loved and why. She made time for kids to play these games and I could tell how much she loved spending time with her students. I'm a huge fan of teambuilding games and love the idea of bringing word games into the classroom. I visited various Goodwills to look for board games to play with students and I'll forever think of Mary Lee when we play them (post-Covid).
Thank you, Mary Lee for being absolutely you! You've helped me be braver to be me!