Reader essays: Best school memory? Love, compassion

Sept. 7, 2013 at 4:07 a.m.
Updated Sept. 8, 2013 at 4:08 a.m.


When Roxianna McCutchan wrote about how one man helped with her disability, she never imagined others would feel as moved as she felt that day.

Click here for a more on Roxianna McCutchan.

McCutchan, of Victoria, won the Regal Jewelers essay contest asking for readers’ best back-to-school memories.

Her story highlights how the maintenance man at Inez Elementary School helped create a new chair for her because of her disability.

“Anytime someone stops and does something for someone else, it’s good,” she said about her experience.

McCutchan lives with multi-minicore myopathy, a skeletal muscles illness.

Even writing the story for the first time was heartwarming.

“Thirty-five years later, it can still bring tears to my eyes,” she said.

See Page B1 for McCutchan’s essay and other submissions.

Want to win a $100 gift card to Regal Jewelers? Enter our September essay contest and tell us the best memory of your grandparents. We’ll take your entries through Sept. 19 at

Here are the five finalists in our September essay contest that featured the best back-to-school memories:

The Desk

I was in the third grade at Inez Elementary, and my teacher was Mrs. Stevens. I was born with a disease, and it was in that grade that it started causing problems, mainly sitting. Mrs. Stevens noticed that I was having issues and just wasn't comfortable in the regular school desk.

She took it upon herself to contact Mr. George Edwards, maintenance man and go-to person. She told him about my problems and wanted to know if he could help make my life easier.

Mr. Edwards started thinking and looking around for what he could use that would be substantial enough and yet comfortable for me and not take up a lot of room.

He devised a desk with a drafting table and a floor, but it still needed a chair. He leaned back in his chair when he realized he had just the chair. So he took the wheels off his desk chair and affixed the chair to the desk and then had it delivered to my classroom.

It was the first time that someone not in my family took their time and energy to help me. I didn't meet Mr. Edwards until just recently, and I was told this story by Mrs. Stevens more than 30 years ago.

But this has stuck with me and the desk followed me to high school. Love and compassion are my favorite memory of school.

  • Submitted by Roxianna McCutchan

The Faces

Back-to-school triggers a flood of wonderful memories that span several decades. Memories of crisp, cooler mornings; shorter, dreamy days; and the smell of autumn in the air. Memories of family trips to buy the new shoes, the new clothes, the lunch boxes, and the long list of necessary and coveted school supplies.

Memories of watching from the front porch of the old farmhouse to spot the big yellow bus that would connect dreams with the future. Memories filled with exciting anticipation of new friends, new challenges, new expectations and new rewards.

All my memories have blended with the passing of years. The places, the faces, and the times keep changing from the Big Chief Tablets to chart tablets, from chalkboards to smart boards, from notepads to iPads, from handwritten notes to email.

However, my favorite memory is a composite of all the emotions that surround all the activities that are echoed in the phrase "Back to School." Emotions of my early memories were always reflected in the face of every child who entered my classroom - those faces are my favorite memory. Faces filled with the same anticipation and expectation of a new beginning and brighter tomorrow. Faces alive hoping that school would be rewarding and renewing for them. Faces encouraging me to do the best I could be while encouraged them to do the same.

This summer is no exception. Back-to-school memories flood over me again, and I see the many faces that enriched my life.

Submitted by Ruth Anderson


I'd already been teaching elementary school for 31 years. What could possibly frighten me? It was "Meet the Teacher" night in August 2004.

In my fourth-grade classroom, there were smiling faces, eager learners, and a few in-betweens. Only one of my expected proteges, a newcomer, was absent. Oh well, off we went to the cafetorium for a school-wide rally. Upon returning to my classroom, there at the door stood three people, one much smaller than the others.

After exchanging introductions, Mom began a litany of expected accommodations for her son because he needed special help in reading, was prone to temper tantrums, physical outbursts, and "he'll bite, kick, and scratch you." Oh, and while telling me this, she occasionally swatted his arm and admonished, "Quit pickin' on those sores."

My "night-before-school-starts" sleep was non-existent. I tossed, turned, and wondered if the first bite, kick, or scratch would occur tomorrow.

It turned out that "Denny" was indeed a needy child. He needed structure, confidence, academic intervention, and a degree of firmness combined with enough compassion to establish a trusting relationship between teacher and pupil. It wasn't an easy year but it was a good year. The sores disappeared, hard work transpired, and progress was made.

Was I assaulted? No, but my heart was constantly tugged. Thanks, Denny, for a good memory.

Submitted by Betty Herzik

The Shoes

It was the first day of school, in middle September (school started late back then, so the farm kids could help get the crops harvested).

I was starting eighth grade, cheerful and eager to start school again. Summers were fun, but I was ready to get back to the books. I neatly combed my hair and walked down the street toward school, whistling a happy tune - barefoot as usual.

Miz Hope Finkelstein taught eighth grade (in those days, Miz meant Mrs. We called unmarried teachers Miss). Miz Hope was a refined and cultured person, who took seriously her job of turning us coarse kids into nascent adults.

She greeted us warmly, but before starting the classroom formalities she took a long look at me and sternly said, "Bobby, you're old enough to wear shoes now. I want you to leave this classroom right now and not come back until you have shoes on!"

Stunned, I sat there a moment before rising to leave. Some of my classmates snickered as I went out the door and headed home. I had to make a quick choice: my church shoes or my old tennis shoes.

Since I never wore my church shoes long enough to properly break them in, I laced up my tennis shoes and returned to class.

My classmates cheered!

Submitted by: Bob Zumwalt

A study in determination

It was 1956 and the start of my sixth grade. Instead of excitement, I was filled with a lot of apprehension and anxiety. Before I was to start the fifth grade, I became very ill with rheumatic fever. The doctors said that the valves in my heart had been damaged. That meant that I had to stay in bed.

No walking, no running, no exerting. I missed the first semester entirely but was able to start school in January.

I didn't realize how sick I had been. All I wanted to do was to run and play so a couple of girls and I started playing baseball with the boys at recess. One day in March, we were all playing baseball and a big boy ran into me and broke my leg. I didn't get a walking cast, so that ended my school year.

A session with the school principal indicated that I would be allowed to start the sixth grade in September with the condition that I would pass the first six weeks successfully. If not, I would be put back in the fifth grade. In the sixth grade I was lost in my studies. Math was so frustrating, especially trying to learn fractions. I cried a lot. I surely did not want to be sent back. My dad did his best to teach me. With all the determination I could manage, not only did I learn fractions, but I passed the sixth grade without any problems.

Submitted by Dina Eberle

Other submissions

Fifth grade

Empty desks were spread across the room like a neat maze. I looked around searching for mine. I finally found it. It was a small desk near the front of the classroom. I saw several names I recognized at the other desks.

My teacher was off talking with my dad. I looked around the room; the walls had word and arithmetic problems. I immediately got scared. I'd never even heard of arithmetic problems. All sorts of things were racing through my mind.

What if I failed fifth grade? I finally managed to calm myself down. We probably wouldn't even learn arithmetic. Just as I was about to leave, my best friends walked into the room. I was happy that they were in my class.

I knew that it was going to be great year and that they'd help me get through it.

I think this memory deserves $100 because, most kids nowadays are obsessed with texting and the Internet but, I looked to my friends and trusted them.

I could've just Googled how to cope with back to school jitters. Instead I relied on my friends and instead of getting scared I looked toward the future.

This memory stood out the most because I remembered that school can be fun but, also challenging. You just have to remember that you have friends who are going through the same thing. After all, school is about learning and being social without using Facebook.

Submitted by: Tatiana Muzquiz



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