V is for Virginia Danzy

is for Virginia Danzy.

Mrs. Danzy was my seventh grade homeroom teacher. The first teacher of the first class on the first day of junior high school. Statuesque, middle-aged, with beautifully coiffed graying hair, and always smartly dressed. It was love at first sight.

I spent the first three periods of the day with Mrs. Danzy that year: social studies, seventh grade orientation, literature and spelling. She had a gift for connecting students with just the right book. She introduced me to stories set in different countries and cultures that captured my interest and attention. I can never forget the Landmark Biography series: Meet Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Bell Invents the Telephone, Ben Franklin of Old Philadelphia, and many others.

A high point of the seventh grade with Mrs. Danzy was a Saturday field trip to San Francisco. We visited the California Adademy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, Fleishhacker Zoo (now the San Francisco Zoo), and Chinatown. Mrs. Danzy was the perfect tour guide. Allowed to explore the sites on our own, she was always close by to answer questions or to suggest places and experiences we might otherwise miss.

I was saddened at the end of that wonderful seventh grade year to learn Mrs. Danzy would not return in the fall. She had accepted a teaching position in another part of the state. Two years later, in the ninth grade, my mother suggested I buy a year book for Mrs. Danzy. I tracked down students from my seventh grade homeroom class and asked them to sign it. Later, I shared with my classmates Mrs. Danzy’s thank you note expressing her joy and pleasure in receiving the yearbook. Once, when I was in college, I visited Mrs. Danzy. She showed me the yearbook and reminded me again how much it meant to her.

Several students from Mrs. Danzy’s seventh grade homeroom became lifelong friends. At our fifty year high school reunion last summer, we enjoyed reminiscing about our school years together and recalled Mrs. Danzy with fondness.

Mrs. Danzy traveled all over the world and encouraged my curiosity and interest in travel. She believed seeing the world and experiencing other cultures was the best education. “Travel is the best way to understand the world and the people who live in it,” she said. “Travel fosters understanding that leads to tolerance of differences and appreciation of the diversity of humankind.”

I believed her. I still do.

0 thoughts on “V is for Virginia Danzy

  1. Annis

    Dennis, I love your straight-forward style and language that makes us see and feel. I can imagine how Ms. D. must have felt to receive that yearbook from you.

    Isn’t it amazing the long-lasting impact a teacher makes on students’ lives. How lucky you were to have more than one who influenced you in such a positive way.

    Love and thanks,

    1. Dennis Post author

      You know about the “long-lasting impact a teacher makes on students’ lives.” I’m sure there are students who feel the same way about you that I feel about Mrs. Danzy. Junior high school kids need more Mrs. Danzys and Ms. Cassells.

  2. JasmineDLowe

    This post definitely makes me want to get up and travel even more. There are so many places I want to see and cultures that I want to experience and the only way I can ever truly learn about them is by traveling.

    1. Dennis Post author

      I have always been fascinated by different people, places, and languages. Mrs. Danzy noticed and quietly fanned the fires of my interest.

  3. Joan Raymond

    “Travel fosters understanding that leads to tolerance of differences and appreciation of the diversity of humankind.” Such a true statement from a very wise woman.

    I remember thinking on some of the long road trips my husband and I have taken — our world does not consist of just our own backyard or our town, but a whole world of amazing people, cultures, food, and everything surrounding it lies just outside of our own little world.

    1. Dennis Post author

      “…[J]ust outside of our own little world” reminds me of Outside Lies Magic: Regaining History and Awareness in Everyday Places by John R. Stilgoe.

  4. Davyd Morris

    Teachers are extremely powerful influences. I remember certain crossroads that teachers guided me through. One, my 10th grade German teacher, has remained close and she is a surrogate mother to me today. Your yearbook idea was inspired.

    P.S.: Did you get to play on the train and cable car at the Fleishacker Zoo?

    1. Dennis Post author

      Without the “influence” of a few remarkable teachers, my life would be different and, I imagine, somewhat diminished. The credit for the yearbook idea goes to my mother. I agree. I was inspired. I remember riding the train and cable car at Fleishhacker Zoo, but don’t recall if we did on the field trip with Mrs. Danzy.


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