Memories of a Special Third Grade Teacher
by Sherry Nelson

Sherry's Third Grade Picture

Her name was Miss Patricia Waris, and I have never forgotten her. She made an indelible mark on my life that school year and was my inspiration for becoming a teacher. I entered her class Thanksgiving week, 1959. Our family had just arrived at Dreux and we were living in temporary quarters (T-281) on the Perimeter Road in the NCO Trailer Park. The school was located to the right of the main gate on the Perimeter Road in the building that was later to become the high school. Her classroom was bright and cheery with large windows that overlooked a small playground. There was a "real" blackboard at the front, complete with a wooden chalk tray (see Doug Donnell's later high school photo). Each day Miss Waris would write the date as well as the day of the week on the board in both English and French. As an eight-year old, I thought this was a really neat touch! Coats and belongings were hung up on hooks on the rear wall. Everyone brought their lunch and ate at their desks as there wasn't a cafeteria. A crate of milk was delivered to the classroom each day - and it was free! Early on she took me across the hall into the Storage Room where the color-coded Ginn Readers were shelved. She asked if I could remember which reader I had been using in my last school (Middletown, PA). When I pulled the book off the shelf and handed it to her, she asked if I was sure about this choice??? I proceeded to describe the last story that I had read in it. Surprised, she immediately took me into her friend's classroom across the hall (grade 4) and explained the situation. From that point on I went to grade 4 for reading class! Miss Waris later told Mom that I was reading well above level and she would not hold me back. I liked her immediately, and did well in her class. Among other lessons that year, we learned the states and their capitals (and could recite them in alphabetical order thanks to a song she taught us) as well as enjoying weekly spelling bees. Friday afternoons were reserved for Show and Tell. Once I stood up and sang "Have Faith, Hope, and Charity". Apparently she was impressed because the next day she went to Daddy's office (Personnel) and told him that I should have singing lessons! He came home and relayed this story. Unfortunately money was tight with four kids and we couldn't afford lessons, but we all appreciated the extra effort she made that day. Other kids' talents in the class were very diverse: accordion player, magician, coin collector, tap name it. Everyone looked forward to this activity. The students in our class came from everywhere, as the reader can imagine. We also had two French girls called Mary and Michelle. They were twins and sported long, brown hair worn in braids. They wore a type of school uniform to school - something that I had never seen before. There was a navy sweater and a plaid skirt. They didn't speak much English at first, but became better and better as the year progressed. I was friendly with Michelle, the quieter one or the two. At one Show and Tell session she taught the class how to make those braided bracelets with several brightly-colored plastic strands that were so popular at the time. We took French several times weekly with a "real" French teacher who lived locally. Each student bought two books from her - both had blue covers with nubby textures. I remember using those books for many years afterwards... We were taught numbers, days of the week, colors, etc. as well as many songs and poems. At recess the girls played hopscotch and double-dutch jump rope. Miss Waris would often join us and proved to be an excellent jumper! At Christmas our class took part in the school program at the base Theater. The dancing part was to "Deck the Halls". Half of the class wore green tights and leotards while the other half wore the same in red. There was also a nativity whereby a new arrival (and neighbor), Laura Smith, was chosen to play Mary - to the envy of all the other girls! The French teacher had our class organized into a chorus on risers singing several songs. All in all it was a huge success. The class celebrated Valentine's Day with a party. Miss Waris had created a beautifully-decorated Valentine box for the entire class. Each student also made a heart-shaped envelope which hung on the side of one's desk to receive the Valentines on the big day. We colored eggs at Easter and had loads of fun decorating them afterwards. Her classroom was always a beehive of activity! She loved to square dance and was known throughout the school for this! She taught us many, many square dances including the Virginia Reel. We would push back the desks and go to it at every opportunity! Often her friend's class from across the hall would join in. Miss Waris used a beat-up portable record player for this purpose..but it didn't matter to us. What fun we had! She had a huge pile of vinyl records with dances from which to chose, so there was always something new and exciting to learn. One Saturday morning she took us on a trip to a local French school. It wasn't far away, and consisted of two classrooms with a smaller room added on one end. It sat right to the road and had a small parking area to one side. Our class entered the smaller room where the local class had prepared a presentation for us. Afterwards the students and their teacher made fresh crepes for everyone, and we all enjoyed a meal together. It was a special day... We also took an end-of-year outing to the Paris Zoo and Eiffel Tower. Miss Waris asked the bus driver to stop en route and went into the local candy store and bought us each a shell candy. We were told not to lick the hardened candy bit until the trip home so as not to arrive with multicolored tongues! In June we took a bus trip to be introduced to our "new"? school on the far side of the base. It was being painted at the time. We were shown where our 4th grade classroom would be located on the ground floor. But what caught our attention was the large, well-equipped playground between the two buildings. Wow! It even had merry-go-rounds and tether balls! But when September 1960 arrived and we started back to school, Miss Waris wasn't there. She had moved on, and oh, how we missed her already! Miss Waris had taken a special interest in each and every child. She was the BEST teacher that I have ever had, at any time, on any level - elementary, high school, college, or graduate school. Thank you, Miss Waris. :)

Sherry (Watson) Nelson NOTE: Two years ago I was in contact with Miss Waris. In her reply email she wrote these words: "Every now and then someone remembers...thank you so much". I am hoping that others who read this story will remember her as well, and add their own special memories of that year! Feel free to post your comments on this wonderful website.

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