My parents were teachers.
My sister is a teacher. My wife is a teacher. I have two aunts and two uncles who were teachers. My grandfather was a teacher. My great-grandfather was a teacher. Several of my cousins are teachers. Several of my aforementioned relatives married teachers. They’re raising kids now, and I’ll bet money that some of those kids are growing up to be teachers.
I am not a teacher, and that’s probably because of another teacher.
Mrs. Gallo taught advanced English and writing classes at Oelwein High School, my alma mater. She was also the advisor to our weekly student newspaper, the Husky Register, and I learned more about writing from her than I did from the combined efforts of all the professors and editors and publishers I’ve ever known.
She wasn’t the first person to encourage me to write, but she was the first person to encourage me to write right.
And I have, for my entire adult life. I’ve written articles, stories, plays, essays and other bits for publications large and small. My love for community journalism, however, started at the Husky Register.
At the Husky Register, we had high ethical standards, We did not cut corners. We owned up to mistakes. Mrs. Gallo wouldn’t have it any other way. Everyone on the staff reported and edited hard news the right way. Mrs. Gallo meant business, and she was tough.
Her toughness, however, was not what I remember the most. It was her kindness, her thoughtfulness, her smile. She cared that we learned, to be sure, but she cared about us, and we could tell.
And although only a few of us went on to become writers, those characteristics and work habits were instilled into us, and they’ve carried over into whatever occupations we’ve pursued. That’s teaching, and that’s what Marilyn Gallo did. If the rest of the world could have had just one semester with her, this would be a far better place.
We covered everything in the Husky Register, and sometimes we kids scooped the pros. Mrs. Gallo loved when we did that.
I was thinking about Mrs. Gallo because I read that the National PTA has designated this week as Teacher Appreciation Week, “a special time to honor the men and women who lend their passion and skills to educating children.”
There’s probably a Mrs. Gallo in your life. Send that teacher a thank-you this week, if you can.
I have been told that the Charles City School District is the third or fourth biggest employer in the county. The district’s employees are shopping in local stores, they’re eating at local restaurants, they’re buying cars from local dealers.
They’re honing special skills. They’re delivering athletic teams that compete and make us proud. They’re presenting plays and musicals and concerts for your enjoyment, they’re teaching young farmers how to give back to the community.
They’re raising their own kids and grandkids while they’re teaching yours.
The bottom line is, they make Charles City a better place to live — and they make your kids better people.
In this year of pandemic, no institutions in the nation have better risen to the unprecedented challenges than local school districts have. When other systems failed, largely due to a lack of leadership, school districts like Charles City stepped up and said “let’s find a way to do this.”
While many clever politicians and shrewd business leaders and highly-educated scientists and sharp-tongued pundits and other so-called experts failed us, teachers found a way to teach.
It’s taken a toll. Locally, teachers were working double or triple time at one point. They lost one of their own due to the pandemic. There have been sleepless nights. There have been students who can’t, or won’t, be engaged. There have been screaming parents, understandably upset at the situation, who directed their rage at teachers, because they didn’t know where else to direct it.
So let’s take a breath. Mrs. Gallo taught me that misdirected anger doesn’t do anyone any good, but well-directed appreciation does at least two people a lot of good. Let’s do that.
This past September, Mrs. Gallo passed away at the age of 94. She left this world peacefully, with her family by her side.
A bunch of us old scribes from the 1986 Husky Register staff composed a little tribute to her, and the local newspaper liked it and put it on the front page. Mrs. Gallo would’ve loved that. We scooped the pros one last time, for her.
She also would’ve marked the margins with red ink and told us how it was good, but could’ve been even better. That’s a teacher, there.
As an adult, I had many chances to express my appreciation to Mrs. Gallo for teaching me, and I’m happy to say that I did so.
And today, I wish I could do that, one more time.