I had the opportunity to have some wonderful teachers from kindergarten through graduate school, but like most people, a few of them stand out above all of the rest. Last Sunday I learned that my seventh grade English teacher Beverly Goodwin died after a battle with cancer.
Mrs. Goodwin was one of my childhood neighbors in the Chapel Heights subdivision and I’ve known her my entire life. Before she was my teacher, I remember her bringing her daughter Gwyn swimming at Mac and Sylvia McGukin’s swimming pool which was our neighborhood country club during the summer months. She was always so gracious, so kind, such the Southern lady.
After my sixth grade year at Central Middle School, the upperclassmen warned me to prepare for the biggest challenge of my school career. No, I wasn’t going up against Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. I was going up against Beverly Goodwin and Marilyn Coulon.
I’ll never forget feeling terrified of both teachers the first day of school. Rumor had it that they were intellectually brilliant, which made their classes incredibly challenging and each of them quite intimidating.
What I discovered and experienced, however, wasn’t Ali and Frazier. Mrs. Goodwin and Mrs. Coulon were not my opponents. They were on my side.
I honestly believe that I could have passed any college English course after the seventh grade. That’s how good they were.
Mrs. Goodwin made sure her students learned the different parts of speech and actually made learning pronouns fun as she would have her students sounding like a chorus as we would chant “I, you, he, she, it, we, you, they.” This may not sound like fun, but when a group of seventh graders say “she” followed by “it” really fast — it’s quite entertaining. Mrs. Goodwin pretended she didn’t hear this, but 30 years later I can testify her techniques work.
Two of her passions that she passed on to her students were music and dance. She took my class to see “The Nutcracker” at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. It was my first trip to the Fox Theatre. She loved ballet and wanted to expose her students to this form of dance.
Although I’m amazed at how ballerinas can stand on their toes, I’d rather watch a football game. I do, however, appreciate Mrs. Goodwin for trying to broaden my horizons. I’ve returned to the Fox to see “The Nutcracker” since her class, but I must confess I enjoyed my other trips to the Fox watching George Strait, Robin Williams, John Denver, James Taylor and George Carlin much better.
One of Mrs. Goodwin’s favorite events was the seventh grade graduation ceremony that she orchestrated. For weeks, she led her students in singing the soundtrack from the “Sound of Music” to perform in the graduation ceremony.
There’s no doubt that my classmates at Central Middle School probably still know the words to the “Sound of Music” soundtrack better than Julie Andrews.
She made sure each male student wore a tie and each female wore a dress for the event. Also, Mrs. Goodwin even lined my classmates from tallest to shortest as we marched on stage. In case you were wondering — John Ayers and I were the caboose.
Cancer is an ugly disease. Mrs. Goodwin was first diagnosed with cancer during my seventh grade year in 1982. She missed about two months of the school year. Her time away could have been viewed as a break from her rigorous curriculum, but my classmates longed for her to return. Again, she was that good.
Thankfully, she would eventually defeat this first bout with the disease and return to teaching. She spent 40 years in the classroom. I’m one of the lucky ones who got to experience her. Our paths crossed for only a short school year, but each time I use a comma or try to even choose a better word for sentence — I can’t help but think about her.
Garrett is a Carrollton resident and businessman. You can read more of his columns at joegarrett1.wordpress.com or contact him at email@example.com