More Influential Teachers, Classmates

More stories from readers about who influenced them … and how.

| September/October 2009

Strict But Fair

Through four years of high school in the mid-1950s, my classmates and I were ruled by a formidable woman. Standing close to six feet tall, our principal ruled the school with an iron fist in an iron glove. With steel-gray hair pulled back into a bun and wire-rimmed glasses sitting on her nose, Miss Tibbles allowed no nonsense from anyone. None of us had ever heard her tell a joke, and she seldom smiled. 

Not only was she the principal, but she also taught freshman and sophomore English and Latin, and for three of my four years in high school, she was either my home room or study hall teacher. 

During study hall, Miss Tibbles often went to the superintendent’s office. Before she left, she would tell us to be silent and to keep studying while she was gone, which, of course, we didn’t do. Occasionally the intercom would come on, and we would hear her deep voice telling us that we would all receive demerits if we did not settle down at once. Most of the time we would hear her thick-heeled, laced-up shoes clomping on the wooden floor as she made her way down the hallway toward her classroom, and we would quickly return to our seats and open our books to make it look like we’d been studying all along. 

My classmates and I all thought we didn’t like her, but we did have to admit she was fair. She never played favorites among the students, and she always allowed us to explain our mistakes. She dealt out her own punishments, and even if we didn’t like it, we had to admit we deserved what we got. 

Miss Tibbles tried her best to help the slower learners, and she pushed the smarter students to reach higher. She also encouraged us girls to go to college or business school so we could support ourselves and not have to depend on someone to take care of us. Now, remember, this was during a time when college wasn’t that common for girls. 

She gave me the push I needed to go on to school, and, even though I didn’t continue with my studies, to read and learn for a lifetime. I feel my interest in many different subjects can be traced back to her influence. Miss Tibbles is gone now, but when I surf the internet for an answer to a question, I often think of how much she would have loved computers. 

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