'I'm sorry this is late, Mrs. Aiello;' Former student remembers Mrs. A

By: Amy Davis

It was an early summer evening when my dad handed me the phone... "Hi, Amy. My name is Mrs. Aiello. That's 'A', as in the letter, plus the color yellow...'A-yellow'. I'm going to be your 4th grade teacher..." I remember feeling a sense of excitement after hanging up the phone. "This year is going to be different. And better.", I smiled to myself...

Mrs. Aiello ended up being both my 4th and 5th grade teacher the following years.  No. More than that. She was a light. A light in the darkness for me. In the classroom, she was amazing...memorable. I remember her introducing us to "The Boxcar Children" book series, to the "I Love Lucy" TV show, to Charlie Chaplin...and one day she handed out the lyrics to the Phil Collins' song "Another Day in Paradise" to read as we listened to it, before discussing what message the song was trying to convey to us. She included us all in her daily life...I remember when she turned 40 years old, and then 41. I remember how she always had to wear a straw hat when she took us outside to play, and she explained to us what the sun did to her fair skin. I remember her Canadian accent...how she pronounced the word "about" in a funny way to me. I remember her trying different techniques of teaching math, science, and writing, to reach everyone's level and particular learning style...She paid attention to each of us individually. She was the best teacher...

Outside of the classroom, Mrs. Aiello was something else. No longer a teacher, but a woman whose kind heart wouldn't let her ignore the signs of a child in need...and she was determined to do something about it. In my case, I was being raised by my father alone. He was doing a wonderful job, but even the best of parents can't stop the emotional challenges that can come with losing a parent to divorce, and all that came before it...and after it. My confidence had taken a nosedive. It affected my performance on schoolwork, it affected my ability to talk to others and make friends, and it affected how I felt about my physical appearance. I was embarrassed by the clothes I had to wear to school. I was grateful to have had a cousin give me her old clothes to wear, but they were starting to rip and tear from being worn and washed so much. My father was the sole supporter of me...he worked hard to keep me in a warm home, keep me fed, and make sure I knew he loved me. And clothes were provided - but it wasn't always easy to come by new ones during this period in our lives...

Mrs. Aiello saw me, for all that was going on behind the scenes. She got my father's permission to spend a day after school with me. She gave me an afternoon of complete, undivided attention from someone I trusted. She took me to my favorite place for dinner, Krazy's Pizza on College road. Then she took me to my choice of a movie (I made her sit through "Problem Child 2", poor woman). Then she took me to Learner's in the mall and bought for me a nice pair of jeans and a beautiful white shirt with blue and pink embroidery on the neckline...something that was really well made, and would last a long time. We talked that night, but I don't think we talked about anything serious...she just wanted me to have a good time that night. I went home with a smile on my face and with a big piece of me refreshed and ready to take on the world the next day.

I'm sure I wasn't the only child she did this for...and it certainly didn't mean i got special treatment as far as grades were concerned. I still got "I's for incomplete work, and Zeros (or "goose eggs" she called them) for missing homework. I still failed pop quizzes I didn't study for. One too many times do I remember saying "I'm sorry this is late, Mrs. Aiello.".

But the things I learned from her in and out of the classroom have never left me...My husband, father, and many others close to me have heard many Mrs. Aiello stories over the years. She left an impression on me...on my heart. I learned from her that kindness did exhist in the world...and how important it is to extend kindness from yourself to others, no matter where you are in life. Use your life's path to seek out those in need...they are everywhere...and help them all that you can. And sometimes being a listening ear and a hand to hold during rough times is the greatest and most helpful of all kindnesses you can offer.

Every time Mrs. Aiello came up in conversation, I would say to myself that I would write to her, to tell her how much she meant to me. I've gone so far as to look her up online, to see if I could find an email address...but I didn't write until today, the day after Mrs. Aiello was killed in a car accident. So... one last time I must say... "I'm sorry this is late, Mrs. Aiello.".

Mrs. Aiello, thank you. Thank you for being there for me, and for the many other children in this world who I'm sure feel the same way. My son will know your stories. I will teach him what you've taught me. And I will teach him your last lesson to me...to never wait to thank someone, and let them know how much of a positive difference they made in life. You will be missed, and never forgotten.

Amy Davis