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Constance Alexander: Forget your password — and then try to remember, if you can, your favorite teacher

You know the routine. You forgot your password, and you didn’t write it down because you were sure you’d never forget it. Without a password manager to secure your digital life, you finally surrender, call the 800 number, and subject yourself to answering your very own magic questions to establish your identity so you can get a new password. 

Answering question #1 is easy. #2, a piece of cake. #3: Who was your favorite teacher?

Pause for a nervous chuckle and ask for the question to be repeated.

Hmmm. Favorite teacher. Now stalling for time.

I explain to the chirpy voice on the other end of the line that I have had so many favorite teachers, there is not one I could pick from the whole gang. So now I have to go through the list until I hit the right one.

Skipping Kindergarten and grades one and two, in grade 3 it was Mrs. Dougherty. She was a real person, not a nun. She wore real clothes, and she actually had real live children in the upper grades of St. Francis School. Oh, and she had real hair that was not concealed by a wimple. Until I got to fifth grade, Mrs. D. was at the top of my teacher list.

Sister Margo was young, and she laughed at our silly 5th-grade girl jokes. She was kind, read to us out loud, and taught a lot of epic and romantic poems like “Evangeline,” “The Highwayman,” and “The Courtship of Miles Standish.”

After Sr. Margo, there was a long break in faves until sophomore year in high school, when Mr. Hurley was the third in a string of English teachers. The other two – women — had succumbed to pregnancy, a condition considered unnatural in those days. Hurley is set apart from all others because he was a theatre person. He gave interesting writing assignments, including one in which he asked us to assume the identity of an inanimate object. Never before had any teacher required me to give life to a creation of my own. I loved the challenge and, by default, Mr. Hurley.

Another standout was Mr. Azzolina, a former Julliard-trained, operatic tenor who’d sung at the Met. He taught choral music at Metuchen High School, and we reveled in his tell-all tales of prima-donnas and stuffed shirts. When we weren’t preparing for a performance, he gave us lots of latitude, but when we did not pay attention in rehearsals, his tantrums – delivered in a furious tangle of Italian and English – were truly awesome. What he gave us was his best, along with the gift of choral music.

At the undergraduate level, I wasn’t much interested in academics, so it took exceptional professors to get my attention. Dr. Erath was so inspired by Shakespeare, his excitement and eloquence on the subject were impossible to ignore. Ms. Lana Diskin, in the college of education, was a professor who had actually taught in the public schools before she entered the halls of academe. She was the first education professor who actually prepared me for the “real world,” and her management style was assertive, well-informed, and good-humored with a slight trace of sarcasm. She was an excellent role model.

The list of my best teachers goes on to three graduate degrees and a roster of fine and memorable teachers, too many to count. The process of reviewing my top teachers, however, takes me to an answer that the current Jeopardy quiz show champion and record breaker, James Holzhauer, could not match with the right question, which is: Who is Frances Lamparter?

She was my favorite teacher of all time, my piano teacher for nine years who, years after her death, continues to have positive impact on my life. Mrs. Lamparter taught me the value of practice, the importance of listening, and the role of strategy in mastering a piece of music. Most of all, she helped me cultivate skills I still work on today, as I continue to add to my repertoire.

Although it is too late for me to retrieve my old password, I’ve fashioned a new one that promises to repel all cyber threats. Now all I have to do is find a fool-proof way to remember it.

For suggestions on how to create a strong password, go to this website.

Constance Alexander is a columnist, award-winning poet and playwright, and President of INTEXCommunications in Murray. She can be reached at calexander9@murraystate.edu. Or visit www.constancealexander.com.

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