My sixth grade English teacher passed away recently due to complications from lupus. Mrs. LeVert has remained one of my favorite teachers over the years. I can still remember where I sat in her classroom – second desk on the front row on the far side of the room, by the window. I remember how she used transparency sheets on an overhead projector and was constantly erasing her multi-colored writings. I remember how she wore her reading glasses on a chain and when she put them on her nose they sat close to the nip of her nose. She would look over those glasses at you with kindness – or sometimes sternness- in her eyes.
Perhaps the greatest memory I have of Mrs. LeVert though is her reading, “The Bridge to Terabithia” aloud to us. I remember walking to her room anxious for everyone to sit down, pay attention, and get their work done so there would be time left over for her to read to us. How angry I would become at the other students when, heaven forbid, they asked a question. “I mean, for the love of Pete, just be quiet so we can get to the good stuff,” or something like it probably went through my mind. I’m sure there was a eye roll or two to accompany the thought.
On the blessed days when everyone cooperated with my need to hear another chapter read and got their work done (my work was probably done to half-par standards just so I could get it done quickly), Mrs. LeVert would pull out the book, sit down in her chair that she placed in front of the projector, adjust her glasses, and begin to read, magically taking us to another time and place.
As she read, “She stole my Twinkies!” Jess sighed. “May Belle, didn’t I tell you?” “You gotta kill Janice Avery. Kill her! Kill her! Kill her!”, Mrs. LeVert screamed and cried just like a small girl would do if some great tragedy has befallen her.
And when Mrs. LeVert read when Jess discovers what has happened to Leslie, anguish and tears in her voice, I sat at my desk sad, crying, and distraught. How dare Katherine Paterson do such a terrible thing. It’s the first time I can remember being so moved by the written word. It opened up an entirely new world for me. I enjoyed reading before this, but this moment, this reading of a now most beloved book, catapulted me into a love of reading that I hope to pass on to my children.
Mrs. LeVert accomplished many things in her life. But for me, she accomplished something that has continued beyond her classroom….She gave me a deep, saturating, never-ending love…a love for traveling to new places, meeting people, and having adventures that can only be found in the written word.