The Power of a Teacher


A Crayon Apron Made for My Daughter, Hayley, by My Teacher, Laura Gordon

    I’m in a pretty intense de-cluttering mode lately.  This morning I went through a bin of my children’s toys and found this sweet child’s apron with hand embroidery work done by my friend and, also, my former high school English Teacher, Laura Gordon.

    It’s been 30 years or so, since Laura gave me this gem and a sweet baby resting basket for my daughter, Hayley, when she was born.  In the past few years, we’ve had a chance to reconnect.  I am awe struck as to how Laura can name the year, class period, and the classmates from the year I met her at Bishop McCort High School.

I loved her class.  She painted her class room yellow; she was excited to share the school  allowed her to pick her own color.  I remember her saying she chose yellow, because this is the color students learn the best.  She bought us Kurt Vonnegut novels with her own money and taught us how to highlight passages in the book.  She shared herself with us…from her husband driving by the school on his way home from work (I think) with a Toyota car horn beep close to 3 O’clock every week day, and Laura stopping class and saying, “That’s Brad, he’s saying hello to me…every day.  It’s his way of letting me know he’s thinking of me.”  When John Lennon was killed in New York City, she dressed in black and explained how she wasn’t sure she could even come to class that day and what the world had lost from this senseless shooting.  In Laura’s class that year and the next year, too, we learned about life, literature, loss, and inspiration.  I was pretty sure I wanted to be an English teacher just like her.

I don’t remember how we stayed in touch as she moved on from Bishop McCort to teach at another school, but I was so thankful to be in Laura and Brad’s orbit, when I became a babysitter for their daughter, Jessie.  It was a blessing to spend time with such nurturing people.  There are so many ways they influenced me; they showed me how the gift of hospitality worked, how to hang wall paper, how to garden, how to really invest in a house and turn it into a home, to showing me the value of a hand made and hand quilted double wedding ring quilt.  It was a whole new world to me.

Life happened. I had one little girl named, Hayley, and a few years later a little boy name, Ben.  Laura and Brad were stalwarts of hope through a confusing time. We lost touch when our schedules didn’t mesh with our growing responsibilities.  Still, Laura checked in with me from time to time.


For a gaggle of years, we lost touch.   A year a so ago, I stopped by the Gordon house. I briefly saw Laura, when I visited Johnstown, PA. I thanked Brad and Laura for helping me so much with Hayley.  They had made a difference in her life; I wanted them to know much I value them.

Just a few weeks ago, I was shocked and brokenhearted by the news of the passing of their daughter, Jessie, at 34 years of age. It was good to talk to Laura over the phone and to know how she and Brad are doing.  Once again, Laura mentioned the class, period of the day, and my classmates by name when we spoke on the phone.  It was heart warming to reconnect with such fond memories from another time.  Gee–I loved their daughter, Jess, as did so many other people.

I’m still so grateful for people in the world like Laura and Brad Gordon; they are nurturing people, really the salt of the earth.

If you would like to donate to a meaningful and worthy cause, Laura and Brad have set up a memorial in Jessie’s memory; it’s called the Jessie Tree Fund. Use the link below to see what a beautiful person she was, and the huge imprint she has left on the lives of others.

I don’t think it’s possible to underestimate the power of a teacher to influence a child’s life for good!

I give thanks for Laura and Brad Gordon.

~From a grateful student and friend