I passed a yellow school bus today. It’s that time of year when every student and every teacher begins with a clean slate…literally and figuratively. It is a brand new year. Ahhh….how I miss it. I loved the cadence of the school year. I loved the cycles of holidays. My memory banks are full of being in both of those roles. It makes me want to run to the store and buy new crayons and notebooks and a backpack….and maybe even a cute lunchbox. It is also this time of year, I think of Mr. Lazzo.
Mr. Lazzo was my sixth grade teacher. I loved him…period…end of sentence. He was and has remained my favorite teacher of all time. He got it right. He made me absolutely LOVE school (even more than I already did) and never EVER want to miss a single day. He was a progressive. He wasn’t concerned with test scores and, to be fair, maybe no one was back then in the mid-60’s. Rather, his goal was to ignite our desire to learn. He allowed us to work at our own speed. I think I finished my Math book in the first month or so of school. Once we finished, we were free to explore. He brought in microscopes, easels, oil paints, chess sets, typewriters, books on all subjects, skeletons, and butterfly collections. His classroom was a kaleidoscope of wonder. He taught us Spanish and sign language. He sent us out foraging for leaves to identify. We built models. We wrote plays. We discovered something new every day. I think that I learned more that year, by choice, than many other years combined.
At some point, I got chicken pox. My little sister brought them home from her preschool and had a super light case, but I was COVERED! The first few days, I wore a long sleeved shirt to cover up my spots. I didn’t want to miss a single day of Mr. Lazzo’s class. I couldn’t bear the thought of what might occur during my absence. Eventually I was discovered and was placed under house arrest, much to my dismay. I must humbly apologize to whomever I may have given the chicken pox to before I was discovered. Um….sorry!
Wonderful Mr. Lazzo didn’t just care about our learning…he cared about our hearts as well. I had my first boyfriend in his class. His name was Billy. He was sooo cute, as all twelve year old boys are! : ) We were going steady which probably meant that I never talked to him again, but I got to wear his I.D. bracelet and his sweater during recess in the 85 degree chill of south Florida weather. His sweater was gray and really soft. It was too big for me but that made it all the more fun to wear. We eventually broke up. He started liking Dolly, also in our class, and then she got to wear his sweater. I was heartbroken. Oh the angst of elementary school romances. One day, when I couldn’t stop the tears, Mr. Lazzo pretended to help me with my math and he positioned himself in such a way that he shielded me while I cried. He encouraged me to understand that this hurt too shall pass. I loved him for that.
I hope that you had a Mr. Lazzo. I hope there are still teachers out there like him. I wish that I could tell him what he meant to me, how much he inspired me, and that I think of him at the beginning of each and every new school year….and I am so thankful that I had him in my sixth grade year. He was most certainly a Tree Star!