Thank You, Miss Seeley

We have another free week, and I had planned to tell you about another one of my groups of friends. Instead, I’m going to tell you about someone who had a great influence on my life. Last week I said goodbye to her – in this life, anyway – and I decided to share a little bit about this remarkable woman.

AnnAnn Seeley was born in Washington, DC, but grew up in rural southwest Michigan. On her family’s farm she cared for the animals and pitched in on all the chores, but she was recognized as the resident mechanic and eventually invented an asparagus picking machine, receiving a patent for her efforts. Her love of music took her to Western Michigan University, where she earned a degree in Music Education. But instead of directing bands and choirs, she became an elementary classroom teacher, and that’s where I had the privilege of knowing her. As a fifth grade student, I was assigned to her classroom in the mid-1960s.

Miss Seeley was known as a strict teacher, but she was fair and consistent. Her students knew exactly what was expected of us as well as what would happen if we didn’t meet expectations. But she was also full of surprises. I remember one young man who had difficulty remembering the rules, and was constantly reminded of them. One day he declared, “Miss Seeley, I wish you would just forget I’m here!” To our surprise, she said, “Okay,” and for three days she ignored him. By the end of the third day he was more than ready to listen to reason.

I’m not sure I thought about Miss Seeley much once I reached high school, but when I started my own career I knew that it was teachers like her who had inspired me to become one. I knew that she took certain students under her wing – students from broken homes, children who struggled to fit in, and kids who just needed some extra attention. And I knew I wanted to be like her.

Ann ducks

Ann didn’t like to have her picture taken. She’d often duck when she saw a camera!

After I retired from full-time teaching, I got involved in the quilting group at my church – I wrote about them on March 30. Since I was one of the women who sewed the quilt tops together, I often sat next to a tiny, wizened woman who really didn’t talk much. It took me over two months to realize she was my fifth grade teacher! We had several conversations over the next few years, comparing notes about teaching and catching up on news about people we both knew.

Miss Seeley was as sharp and quick-witted as I remembered. And she was just as giving. In addition to sewing quilts, she was a member of the group Warmng Ears Ministry, making hats, and she worked at her church’s food pantry. When I started writing romance novels I gave her one of the first of my print copies. I wasn’t sure whether or not she enjoyed reading romances, but I wanted to give her some tangible evidence of what she had done for me. She graciously took the book, and went back to our sewing. A few weeks later I got an email, sent through my website:

“I read your book. I liked it.”

Ann & hats

Ann’s no-nonsense approach to life extended into everything she did.

Those seven words validated me as an author more than any review or award. I was humbled that this eighty-year-old woman who struggled with using her cell phone took the time and effort to email me. To do so, I’m assuming she had help – and asking for help was another thing she struggled with. I am so grateful that I had the chance to see my former teacher again and do something to thank her for what did for me.

When I heard Miss Seeley had passed, I posted an announcement in my high school’s Facebook page. Almost immediately, messages of condolences and fond memories began pouring in. It seems many of my classmates remember her the way I do. I copied all their comments and put them into a small scrapbook for her family, since most of them live in California. I wanted them to know what a treasure she was to us.

Most of our teachers are in our lives for only nine months, but their influence can last a lifetime. If you can read and write, your teachers have given you the keys to endless adventures. Be sure to thank them, if you can.

About Patricia Kiyono

During her first career, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary music, computer classes, elementary classrooms, and junior high social studies. She now teaches music education at the university level. She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband, not far from her five children, nine grandchildren (so far), and great-granddaughters. Current interests, aside from writing, include sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking, and music. A love of travel and an interest in faraway people inspires her to create stories about different cultures. Check out her sweet historical contemporary romances at her Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Patricia-Kiyono/e/B0067PSM5C/
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20 Responses to Thank You, Miss Seeley

  1. Lavada Dee says:

    Like you I had a very special teacher in the 5th grade. She gave me so many tools to use as I’ve gone through life. To make it even better our oldest son had her as a teacher and I got to see again the influence the had in young people’s lives.

    Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed Miss Seeley’s story and the memories it brought back.

    Like

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Thanks so much for reading and for sharing your experience, Lavada! I think fifth grade is when we start to understand more about the world and how big it is. The people we look to for guidance when we reach that stage make the biggest impact on us.

      Like

  2. Helen Pollard says:

    What a lovely post, Patricia. I, too, had a handful of teachers that meant a great deal to me and I still remember so well several decades on – those teachers who understand your personality and nurture your unique talents are very precious. One high school English teacher in particular was always keen to encourage my creative writing, and I am still in touch with a primary school teacher I had at the age of nine. We used to visit, and we are now down to just exchanging brief news and cards at Christmas … but I treasure that card each year as it lands on the doormat 🙂

    Like

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Helen, isn’t it lovely when we can see our mentors again later on? As a teacher, I’m delighted to see how my former students have turned out, so I’m sure your English teacher enjoys her time with you. Thanks so much for stopping in.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Diane says:

    What a wonderful memory about my friend Ann. She was truly a remarkable person and a very giving one. I will miss her so much.. Thank you for sharing.

    Like

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      I agree, Diane, she was remarkable. I know she treasured your friendship, too. Thank you for taking such good care of her.

      Like

  4. jeff7salter says:

    wonderful tribute to a lady who sounds like a superb teacher and awesome human being.

    Like

  5. I am sorry for your loss, what all that you gained! It was wonderful that you were in the sewing circles so many years later…as a peer!
    How wonderful that she inspired you to go the extra mile with kids who needed it, although you had to have it in your heart to recognize it!
    It seems that sometimes the strictest teachers were the most inspirational and, not matter how much the kids complained , were the ones they appreciated the most in the end.
    Thanks for sharing the inspiring lady,Patty.

    Like

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      I’ll be forever grateful that I had the opportunity to meet her again at a later stage in my life, when I was able to appreciate all she did. And yes, from the comments of all her former students, we appreciated the fact that she was strict and expected our very best.

      Like

  6. Miss Seeley sounds like a remarkable woman.

    Like

  7. Lovely tribute, Patty. Yes, teachers really can make a big difference in someone’s life. Mrs. Howard and Mr. Lombard were two that influenced me in my high school years. She taught just about everything (Latin, French, English, Speech, Phys. Ed.,) and was our drama coach. (I went to a very small Catholic school.) He taught American History. What’s interesting is that he is now a Facebook friend! Thanks goodness for teachers who do make that difference.

    Lucy

    Like

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Isn’t it wonderful to reconnect with former mentors? I’m Facebook friends with a few of my college professors – but not high school. Thanks so much for stopping in, Lucy!

      Like

  8. What a great tribute to her and it says a lot that so many of her former students sent messages. I’m so glad she read and enjoyed your book!

    Like

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Me too, Krysten! I hesitated before giving it to her, but I’m so glad I did. Thanks so much for stopping in!

      Like

  9. Alicia Dean says:

    Beautiful post! What a blessing to have had this lady in your life as a child, and again as an adult. Wow, running into her like that was something, wasn’t it? I’m sure she was proud of you and felt blessed to know you as well. I’ve had a handful of teachers who touched my life deeply as well. What a gift it would be to have the opportunity to reconnect. Thanks for sharing about this incredible woman.

    Like

  10. I loved reading this! I also was a teacher so I truly enjoy these little presonal rememberances. She was also my cousin; a very special woman indeed!

    Like

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