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.