As Teacher Appreciation Week begins, the teacher most in my thoughts is one I never had in class – my mother-in-law, Betty Francisco. She died last week at 94.
Betty taught home economics for 30 years – three years in Crown Point and 27 years in New Castle, Ind. As a middle school teacher, she taught every female student who went through New Castle Community Schools in the 1970s and '80s, so it wasn't unusual to meet women who grew up there and remembered my mother-in-law for teaching them to sew and cook.
One acquaintance once told me she was sure that Mrs. Francisco would remember her because she was the one who drove a sewing-machine needle through her thumb. But when I shared the story with my mother-in-law, she laughed and said there were too many to remember.
My husband remembers his petite mother bringing home towering stacks of skirts to grade. Family vacations were scheduled around 4-H judging and – in what must be the burden of every teacher's child – it was impossible for my husband or his siblings to misbehave without a report quickly reaching his mother's classroom.
Among the condolences we received are several messages from former students. One shared that Betty's love of teaching was an inspiration. Another shared that -- while she failed cooking and sewing -- she remembered other lifelong lessons from my mother-in-law.
"She is the reason I became a family and consumer sciences (home ec) teacher," wrote anothe, from Florida. "She saw something in me that I didn't know I had. I will always be grateful that she was my 7th grade sewing teacher."
To see something in a student that she doesn't recognize in herself is surely a gift. Could there be a better way to show appreciation to a teacher?