Most Valuable Mammal

Believe it or not, I taught biology for a year. I’m not really sure how I lasted an entire year, but I suppose it had something to do with the fact that school only lasted nine months. I can do almost anything for nine months.

Those fleeting moments taught me several things. Probably the best thing it instilled in me was an undying respect for teachers that stay in the game their entire lives. My hat is off to them. Kudos, my brothers and sisters.

Recently, I ran into an old student of mine. During my tenure, she was a senior in the Advanced Biology class that I taught (and I use the term, taught, rather loosely). After all these years, I not only remembered her, but I remembered her name. For me, that’s a major achievement. I have trouble remembering my own name let alone someone whose path I crossed over forty-five years ago.

Will Wonders Never Cease?

Another amazing thing was the fact that she seemed to like me and thought I was a good educator. Will wonders never crease? I was quite pleased to hear it, but good students tend to make for good teachers; and she was a good student.

She was such a good student, that she won an award in my class. I had totally forgotten that I had handed out little trophies for various acheivements. At the end of that Advanced Biology class, she was awarded the “Most Valuable Mammal” trophy. Not only did she remind me of that little tidbit, she told me she still had it. That’s good to know, because I probably dropped a hard-earned quarter on that baby. Sometimes, you just have to spare no expense.

If I recall correctly, the Most Valuable Mammal was the student with the highest comprehensive grade in the class for the entire year—a feat worth noting. I was not an excessively tough grader, but I failed my share of students. If she was awarded the coveted MVM, she earned it.

An Ego Booster

I was excited to have run into her (even though it was at a funeral). I don’t get back to that town all that much, so the odds were extremely low. Nevertheless, we crossed paths once again, and some good memories were shared (and my ego boosted a tad).

Sometimes in life, you just never know if you’ve done some good in any given situation. I can now say that I affected at least one student in a positive manner. It’s probably fortuitous that I didn’t last long in the teaching profession, but at least I made my mark in a small (but significant) way. That’s pretty gratifying.

In the Old Testament book of Esther, Esther’s uncle Mordecai, presented her with a dangerous challenge that, if it worked out, would possibly save their people. He told her that it may very well be that she was there “for such a time as this.” Maybe my time was the year I presented the Most Valuable Mammal Award.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

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