I owe my greatest passion to a woman I didn’t like very much and who, I’m pretty sure, didn’t really like me either. Not that I can blame her. I was kind of awful.
She taught typing (and accounting, but I wasn’t smart enough for that class) to high school juniors and seniors. She was one of those teachers who seemed like she’d been around forever. You’d do a double take if you saw her shopping at the mall or pushing a buggy around Piggly Wiggly, believing that she actually lived at school.
That’s why it was such a shock when I read that Mrs. Jordan had died, because she wasn’t a person, at least not in my memory. She was an institution, a mantra on a slab of granite forever inspiring future generations.
Mrs. Jordan was one among so very many teachers always nagging me to tuck my shirttail in, to pay attention, to stop bothering the girls, to sit still … nag, nag, nag. She was as relentless about me getting an education as I was about ruining it.
Yet, more than any other teacher I ever had — save for the arrogant college English professor who said I’d never "get" "Steppenwolf" (the Herman Hesse novel, not the ’70s "heavy metal thunder" band) and thus inspired me to read more than Spider-Man comics — Mrs. Jordan’s lessons have stayed with me. In fact, they were responsible for my career as a writer.
"How’d you learn how to type?" my 8-year-old daughter asked me, while standing in line at Popeye’s last week.
"The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog," I answered without hesitation.
That was the phrase Mrs. Jordan used to teach her students how to type. Lord knows how many times I chased that darn fox, or how many times I cussed out loud when my fingers cramped or I jammed the keys of our school’s manual (yes, manual!) typewriters.
I can still hear the clatter of typewriters in that classroom, which was as small as all of our lives at the time.
I finally got it, mastering Mrs. Jordan’s Home Row mantra. "A. S. D. F. J. K. L. ; (semicolon) Take it home!," she’d preach while pacing around the room.
When I graduated from high school and went to nearby Darton College, I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I wanted to write. Somehow, I stumbled into a reporting class, though I cared nothing about the news.
My first assignment was about Darton’s new librarian. The only reason I got the assignment was because I could type faster than anyone else in the class.
In the years since, I’ve published hundreds of stories, columns and magazine articles. Even managed to win a few awards. While other teachers and experience taught me how to be a writer, it was Mrs. Jordan who gave me the skill that allowed my fingers to keep up with the words and thoughts spilling out of my mind.
I’m not the only one. Her memorial service and Facebook page were filled with people who carried a piece of her into their own futures.
In my senior yearbook, Mrs. Jordan wrote, "Develop your God-given talents and you will find the success you deserve. I will miss you and I will never forget you."
At the time, I was too young and naïve to appreciate that Mrs. Jordan saw in me something I didn’t see in myself. For that, she is the one who will never be forgotten.
Take it home!
Contact Brett Buckner at firstname.lastname@example.org.