by Crystal M. Anderson
It was 1952 and I was a sophomore in high school. An algebra class was dealing me fits and it wasn’t sinking into my dull brain. The language of algebraic terms threw me for a loop. My teacher was Miss Rupp and my fear of her was second to none other I had faced before.
Miss Rupp of the stern face and forbidding nature left me quaking in my white buck shoes. I hoped that she would not call on me for any answer. I knew I would not know the answer and her eagle eyes told me that she knew I wouldn’t know the answer.
Luck ran out one day and she called my name, told me to come to the blackboard and work the problem she would give me. I stood in front of that blackboard, my nose just a few inches away from it, and stared at the problem. My hand with the chalk in it didn’t move. Why bother? I didn’t know how to work the blasted problem.
Finally Miss Rupp took the chalk and did this and that and came up with the answer. “Miss Stogdill, you can return to your seat,” she told me. “Yes, Miss Rupp,” I said, with my head down, as I slunk back to my seat.
It seemed forever before our class was over and once it was, I headed for the door, ready for the great escape. I almost made it, but then I heard Miss Rupp say, “Miss Stogdill, I would like to see you at my desk.”
Inside I was saying, “But I don’t want to see you,” but I turned and made my way to stand before her.
“Miss Stogdill, you are having far too much trouble with Algebra. You definitely need some help. If you can come in after school, I will help you until you understand the concept of Algebra, she said.”
What a relief, help! I agreed to come in and I did so. She spent time with me each night I could come in until I understood what she was trying to teach me. I ended up my time in her class with a B average and I owe it all to a woman who was more than an average teacher. She was an extraordinary teacher, one who went the whole way with her students.
I was not the only one who benefited from this woman’s teaching. It was years before I fully understood how much Miss Rupp cared for us, her stern and forbidding nature covered up a big heart, filled with love for those she taught. Indeed when she walked in to watch a school sports game, she was cheered more often than not. She was respected and she had earned it.
She is long gone from this world we live in, but whenever I think of her, I say to myself, “Hats off, Miss Rupp, you deserve it.”
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3 thoughts on “Hats Off, Miss Rupp”
I remember reading this story when it first came out and both then and now, I thought back to the meanest math teacher I ever had, Grace Williams. She taught the higher order math classes, trigonometry, advanced Algebra, Pre-Calculus, Matrix Theory. I was not the struggling student of this story. No, I was the one who slept in the back row of the class and got 100’s on the assignments and tests. But Mrs. Williams would have none of that, moved me to the front row and never called on me, since she knew I always had the answer. She was such a mean teacher that after I finished first semester Calculus at college, I went back to see her, asked if I could say a few words to the class, and said something along the lines of “Mrs. Williams is the meanest Math teacher any of you will ever have in High School. Be sure to thank her for that, when you get to college.”
I had the same English teacher for three years in high school. A lot of people thought she was mean, but I loved her. Even though I didn’t go to college for 10 years, I thought college English was easy after taking Mrs. Cook, and I was even able to CLEP one semester.
About 12 years after graduation from high school, I wrote her a letter to thank her for everything, and to tell her that I’d decided to be an English teacher, too. (I typed it, because she’d always given me a hard time about my handwriting.) I still have the letter she wrote back to me. Before she died, we were able to visit a little and share teaching stories.
I never told her that I didn’t make my students diagram sentences.
I had an English teacher like that. She was a stickler for neat handwriting with proper spelling and grammar. We used to think she was mean and did not like us at all. Little did I know that the grounding she gave me in good, fundamental writing would be a major reason that I became a researcher and writer. I think of her often when I am writing as I don’t have to think about my spelling and grammar; it’s a part of who I am. I never had the chance to thank Miss Elliott before she passed on and regret that a lot.
I also had a Social Studies teacher—at the same school in the same year—who was a bit of a martinet. He insisted that all students be able to speak “off the cuff” in front of the student body. The first few attempts were terrible, but, gradually, I began to understand what he was trying to teach us. I have been speaking in public with confidence ever since that year in junior high school and am forever thankful to a teacher who gave me skills I use almost every day in my heritage advocacy activities. Thank you, Mr. Mills, for all that you taught me.