The summer before I entered the fourth grade, we moved to a new school district. While I was sad to leave the school I knew so well for a larger school, I hoped that the change would be just what I needed. The previous year, I had a teacher that didn't like kids who didn't have parents on the PTA or have a lot of money. My parents didn't fit those categories so I was not on her list of favorite students. She routinely overlooked my raised hand, pointed out my flaws to the class and made me feel like I was not good enough to be in her class. Prior to that, I'd always been the teacher's pet so this was an unwelcome change and really threw my eight year old mind into a whirlwind. My grades and my attitude reflected my unhappiness and I'm sure my family wondered what happened to their kid who loved school so much.
When I entered the fourth grade at my new school, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my new teacher was a sweet woman that radiated love for every child in her class. In her eyes, we were all equal and she wanted nothing more than to show each of us love and teach us to love to learn. Within a couple of weeks, I loved school again. I loved being in her class.
Mrs. Mozingo loved to read. Every day after lunch, she would read aloud to the class from a "chapter book" and at the end of each chapter, we were left begging for more. It wasn't just because the book was so fantastic, it was often because of the way she read it. She loved reading to us and we all knew it. We would get so involved in the stories that we would literally lose ourselves in them. At the age of nine, that can be unusual. I remember sobbing in class when the hounds died in "Where The Red Fern Grows". I was so wrapped up in the story that I didn't care if anyone saw me, I was sad. Suddenly, I was a voracious reader. I couldn't get enough. I fell in love with every author, book and character Mrs. Mozingo introduced me to. When she read from Shel Silverstein, I knew I'd love him forever. At every opportunity, I'd check his books out at the library and memorize every poem I could get my hands on.
Looking back now, I realize that a lot of who I am as an adult, started in the fourth grade. So many of the things I am so passionate about came from that year I spent learning from her. She was a wonderful teacher and her passion spilled over into her students.
However, it wasn't her passion for reading and writing that I believe changed me the most. It was her love. The day before I walked into her class, I had no hope. I'd had a bad year the year before. My home life was shaky. I was in a brand new school. I could have been a lost cause. I could have remained hopeless. But, I walked into her class and she loved me. She treated me like a daughter. She didn't care if my parents didn't have a lot of money, she cared about me. I can't stress enough how much that affected me.
Mrs. Mozingo still lives near my parents. A few years back, I ran into her at a local restaurant when I was home for a visit. Over fifteen years had passed and when she saw me, she smiled. She remembered me. I was taken back to the fourth grade with her smile. I instantly felt like she still cared about me. We chatted briefly and once we got into the car, I cried. I cried because I hadn't told her how much she meant to me so many years ago or how I felt that she is the reason that I love to read and learn. She's the reason that I have now passed that same passion to my own children. Not a day goes by that I don't think about her and long to thank her. I've thanked God for Mrs. Mozingo so many times and I'm willing to bet that I'm not the only child that passed through her class that has done so. I will tell her. She's an amazing woman and she deserves to know what a difference she made.