I was a shy and somewhat serious kid, the kind most people don't recall being in their classes because we were all but invisible. I would rather have died than speak up or call attention to myself in any way. In the fourth grade, all that changed.
Until that year, my teachers had been the "traditional" type—pleasant, plump, matronly women who wore sensible shoes and black-rimmed glasses. But when Miss Nedra Korsmo walked into the classroom on the first day of my fourth grade year, all heads swiveled forward and twenty-nine mouths dropped open in surprise. She was (gasp) young! And pretty! Could she really be our teacher?
Miss Korsmo's first assignment was for us to write a story about any subject we liked. As shy kids are prone to do, I spent a lot of time lost in my own fantasy world and this was a task I could really wrap my head around. I stole a glance at her as I placed my finished paper on her desk and she gifted me with one of her smiles. I thought she was, perhaps, the most gorgeous creature ever to walk the earth.
The next day, she returned our stories with her comments on them —to everyone except me. I could feel her presence as she walked up, then stopped behind me. My panicked mind began to race. I thought, "Oh, no! Why me? What have I done?" and I began to sweat. "Janet," she began, "has written an exceptional story. I would like for her to read it aloud to the class." She handed the paper to me and smiled encouragingly. Despite my panic at being the center of attention, I managed to read the words, never once raising my eyes from the pages. I was embarrassed but at the same time flushed with pride from her words.
It would not be the last time Miss Korsmo singled me out in front of the class during that year. I read more stories. I repeated multiplication tables aloud until I could say them in my sleep. She refused to let me slide on any task. Once she even made me organize my messy notebook while the rest of the class waited. During that year, she forced me to work harder and reach higher than any teacher had before. I've thought of her often through the years. A few times I've tried in vain to find her to let her know what a difference she made in my life. She taught me far more than writing, geography and multiplication tables—she taught me to believe in myself.
Nedra Korsmo, 1957
Janet, my heart was lifted by this story. I'm amazed you have her photo and she definitely was beautiful, in more ways than one. Thank you for sharing the inner being of a shy little girl and how within that shell is a flower that can blossom if lucky enough to have a teacher like Miss Korsmo. (the name is a classic)A perfect legacy story!
I would give this story and A+ and ask that you read this in front of the class. My own story which I am now inspired to write is similar.
Janet, I could feel your stress as Miss Korzmo stood behind you that day in class. What a beautiful tribute to a fine teacher! I enjoyed your legacy story very much.
I am pleased to report that I located Miss Korsmo and forwarded a link to the story to her. She was delighted and told me we were her first class after graduating from college. It's so great to reconnect with her!