After Sister Mildred passed away, we found this reflection among her belongings. It was a piece of paper on which she had written 11 reasons why she loved to teach first grade. She titled it "First was Best." In the corner, however, she noted her love for all her students in various grades. We have a feeling she would like us to share her letter with you:
First was Best
I was asked what I did. Answer: “I am a Benedictine Sister and a teacher.” When I said I taught first grade for many years, I generally heard a very flat “Oh!” I was not sure whether this was an expression of pity or disinterest. So I repeat: “Yes, I taught 1st grade for many years.”
1. Where else would I tie so many hair ribbons and shoe strings, and button coats every day?
2. Where else could I see a style show of pretty dresses and shirts?
3. Where else could I wear the same dress day after day and be told each day that “it is pretty”?
4. Where else could I eat a sticky piece of candy from grimy little hands and not get ill? (I had to eat it because the child would smile and watch me eat it).
5. Where else could I walk down the rows of desks and have a warm hand touch me?
6. Where else could I guide the first letter formation of a chubby little hand that may someday write a book or sign an important document?
7. Where else could I forget to listen to the State of the Union address because little Stevie isn’t grasping reading as he should, so I had to give him more time and help?
8. Where else could I forget my own aches and pains because of many cut fingers, scratched knees, and broken hearts that need care?
9. Where else would my mind have to stay so young as the group whose attention span is so short that I had to keep a “bag of tricks up my sleeve.”
10. Where else can you see their happy eyes as I told them stories about about Jesus and God our Father?
11. Where else could I feel so close to my Creator as I did each year, when I help God’s children learn to read, write, spell, sing, dance, pray and play?
YES, I did teach the first grade. I saw the love of God in each one “Mr. and Mrs. America,” and I loved it! Celebrating and teaching were peak moments between the ordinary happenings of life.
And the teacher in me continues to say “Celebrate life!” for it is precious. Say “yes” to life, for God sees us as we should be, but loves us as we are.
Smile! God loves you and so do I,
Sister Mildred Zember, OSB