"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

‘Hello Mrs. Nelson, do you remember me?’

By on August 24, 2019 in Uncategorized with 0 Comments
Constance Nelson Bean: What has happened to the students who passed through my classrooms?

By Constance Nelson Bean

I have been retired from teaching for 25 years, but it takes no time at all to be back in the classroom whenever an adult approaches me and says, “Hello, Mrs. Nelson, do you remember me?” 

Oh my, how my brain scrambles to try and see a familiar feature, a gesture, a voice sound, something that will trigger a name for me. 

Hundreds of children have passed through my classrooms — mostly in Wenatchee — in a career of 25-plus years and I wish I could name all quickly if approached today. But at 83 years of age this is just not possible. 

On rare occasion, I will recognize someone quickly, but bear in mind, early students in my elementary classrooms are in their 60s and do look a bit different than when they were in grade school. 

Years have passed since our paths may have crossed, years of growing up, education, military service, careers, families, and now possibly even retirement. 

But oh my, what a lovely gift it is to hear those sweet words, “Hello, Mrs. Nelson, do you remember me?”

I share that, “You have certainly grown up since I last saw you, please help me with your name.” 

When a name is given, often memories flood back that will place this gracious adult face back in my first grade. I thank them for remembering me and speaking. We smile, maybe share a story or two and move on. 

I am quite sure I speak for many retired teachers who have experienced the same emotions as I have.

As I look back over the past decades I wonder, just where did all those years go and what has happened to all the children that passed through my classroom door. 

I also wonder if I touched any child in a special way, helped turn a child in a different direction, gave comfort to a child in pain, loved a child that needed love, and all the other emotions one shares with other human beings. 

I loved my teaching career. My own children laugh when I share in my early days of teaching the biggest concern was chewing gum, chatting too much in class and heavens forbid, cutting ahead in lunch line too often. 

I always hated to call parents in those days as I knew if I did, the poor child would be in such trouble when they got home, but I also knew they would never be a problem in my classroom again. 

Over the years I taught three principals here in our valley, successful businessmen, teachers, homemakers, doctors, businesswomen, policemen, caregivers, nurses, doctors, salesmen, banking executives, difficult students, gifted students and ones that I have never forgotten. 

Always there are those few that write forever on your heart and they live there always. 

I would hope in return there are students who feel the same about some teachers as they move through schools. If even one teacher has touched the soul of a student in a positive way that student will carry that with them forever. 

I still remember my kindergarten teacher, Miss Wren. All teachers were single in Seattle when I grew up as you could not marry and teach school. 

When WWII was over, this rule changed, and Miss Wren got married. Many of us attended a wedding shower for her at Bryant Grade School in Seattle. 

Today as we gather in our middle 80s, we former students always share how we all loved Miss Wren. She loved each of us the best we knew. She gave us milk and crackers at break time before our quiet time on the floor mats followed by story time. 

Those were wonderful days of innocence and surrounded by the love of our teacher. 

Speaking of kindergarten, one story that is fun to share is about the principal of Eastmont High School, Lance Noel. 

His family moved to Wenatchee from Alaska after school was started and he was brought to my kindergarten class at Lewis and Clark, one unhappy and scared little boy. He clung to his mom’s leg, big tears in his eyes, and really did not want a thing to do with this new class, children or Mrs. Nelson. 

My heart went out to him, as I could imagine being uprooted, plopped in a new class filled with strange children and a teacher he had never seen before. 

We had a few days of getting acquainted, and within a short period of time he was once again a happy little boy. And now, he is a fine principal of Eastmont High School. 

This was one time I identified myself to a student. One evening after he was in a performance at the PAC I went up and asked, “Lance, do you remember me!” He said, “Oh my, Mrs. Nelson!” He could not believe it was me after all those years. 

Another story with a little 4th grader who arrived from England, named Ian. His parents brought him to school in a precious little gray flannel suit, short pants, white shirt and a tie. 

Oh my, that took a bit of work to make all happy for Ian. 

Fortunately, his parents understood the importance of changing his school attire and we all learned lessons in acceptance, differences and understanding. 

Yes, I have had students end up in the Big House in Walla Walla, commit suicide, killed in horrible accidents, become lost souls in our society. 

For the year I had them, some of these students struggled so hard, and you could almost see the handwriting on the wall. Others you never saw the signs of destruction. 

Life is a long journey, and some move along with only a few potholes along the way, others find all the potholes and make new ones. 

Looking back, I focus on the good times, most of the students I had were just a delight. They made my days happy with their enthusiasm and interest. 

Happy memories are the only one’s worth hanging on to. I share this thought with my own children. 

Yes, students all, I remember you because each of you in your own unique way touched my heart and life forever. 

Please always stop me and say, “Hello, Mrs. Nelson, do you remember me?” 

After teaching early in her career in Bellevue and Edmonds, Constance Nelson Bean taught 20-plus years was in the Wenatchee School District. She has lived in Wenatchee the past 51 years and has been retired 25-plus years. 

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