Ode to Mrs. Dennis(Editor’s note: Meredith Leigh Knight wrote this column with “a little help from her educated daughter.”)
Each year, my daughter said she hears at least one person whisper, “Did you know Mrs. Dennis is retiring?”
Fortunately for my daughter, the rumors of her retirement were greatly exaggerated — until this year, that is.
Mrs. Sue Dennis, infamous Language Arts teacher at Evans Middle School, has announced her official retirement at the end of the school year.
Yes, in Mrs. Dennis’ book, “ain’t” is a cuss word, and, as she often warns the kids, “Don’t make me cuss!”
Mrs. Dennis has such a reputation as a tough teacher that even I, armed with my English degree and Harbrace college handbook, was frighten the first time I entered her classroom.
My daughter, on the other hand, was relieved.
In Mrs. Dennis, she found a warm, generous, kind, witty and remarkably intelligent teacher. Mrs. Dennis knows what her students are capable of even before they realize it themselves. She pushed them, and they rose to the occasion.
As my daughter half-jokingly said, “After I remembered the 10 questions not to ask, we got along pretty well.”
In case you are curious, the questions included things like, “Am I supposed to write in cursive? Is this for a grade? Where are we (hopefully meaning in the book)?”
Beyond those 10 questions and remembering “not to use no double negatives,” the sky was the limit when it came to learning in Mrs. Dennis’ class.
“No matter the subject matter, Mrs. Dennis always put her own twist on it,” said my daughter.
Here’s a description of the class in her words:
After reading the sad story of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” our class decided to go into hiding in order to see how it felt. Mrs. Dennis packed all of my class, including herself, into a classroom storage closet. When a class came into the classroom, we had to remain completely still and silent, or we would be caught by the “Germans.”
Monologues were also a big deal in her class. We had to memorize, plan and perform a one-person skit. Every monologue was completely different and included the author’s personal touch. Later on, we had to write our own monologue, two-person skit, and, in the 8th grade, perform a full skit for an audience.
Everything that we have done over the past three years in Mrs. Dennis’ language class has truly been worth it, from reading Shakespeare and the classics, to learning grammar and writing composition.
Mrs. Dennis will always be, by far, the best teacher I have ever had. Not only have I gained a love for writing and language arts, but I have gained confidence in speaking and acting in front of an audience.
As Mrs. Dennis enjoys her hard-earned retirement, my daughter will embark on her journey to high school and beyond. She’ll be a little older and a lot wiser, thanks to her teacher’s guidance.
And, one day, down the line, she’s going to wake up, think of Mrs. Sue Dennis and shout out the expression she told them they would eventually say: “Hot dog! I’m educated!”