Tag Archives: mrs anderson

Readers are Leaders

I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember. Weekly Saturday trips to the library (where my mom would drop me off and pick me up hours later) were sacred. I scored very high on my first grade reading evaluation and often read books above my grade level. I preferred reading to visiting friends on weekends and after school.

But I didn’t like writing about what I read. In 5th grade Miss Jaderman evaluated our reading ability on small book reports we wrote for books we read. After 5 book reports we got a small pin, after 15 we got a better pin and after 25 we got a gold pin. While I eventually earned my 25 book pin, I got low reading marks for a few quarters and was recommended for the remedial reading class for 6th grade.

We were not expected to write much on the book reports, they were less than half a sheet of 8.5×11 paper. The top half was reserved for an illustration. After filling out the title of the book and author, there was maybe room for 100 words. But I hated doing it. I know I read more than 25 books that year, probably more than most of the class, but because I was so reluctant to fill out the book report forms, I was considered a poor reader.

At the end of the year we were given all of our book reports, bound between two sheets of construction paper with brass colored brads. I think my book report portfolio was orange. I think I still have it somewhere, I distinctly remember what it looked like.

A few weeks ago I found the book report pins. Strange how I kept them all these years, despite despising the method of earning them.

I guess this is one of these things I need to let go. My anger at Miss Jaderman for not realizing I was a good reader — just a reluctant writer and the shame I felt being placed in the low reading class in 6th grade (luckily my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Anderson, figured out I was a good reader within days and brought me back to the regular/advanced reading group).

Things like this could squelch the love of reading out of someone. I am forever grateful to Mrs. Anderson for this, as well as for fostering an even greater love of reading.

Old Writing: Part 17::Picking Countries

This was written when I was in 6th grade. I am thinking we were studying how to write newspaper articles.

Picking Countries

“Wednesday, February 5th was the day for picking countries in social studies,” said Mrs. Anderson, sixth-grade teacher at Highland School. “The boys and girls will each give a report on a country in Europe and tell about their country, the climate, geography, costumes, and people. Each report will take place when they come along in the social studies book,” continued Mrs. Anderson, “The purpose of the reports is for the children to get accounted to the countries for upper grades.”

Some children wanted the same countries, so Mrs. Anderson let one have the northern half and the other have the southern half.


My daughter asked me, a few weeks ago, if I had any regrets and if so what they were. I could not think of any, offhand, and told her so, but today I thought of one regret.

In 6th grade we had a student teacher – Mary Woiwode. I don’t remember too much about her. In my memories she was short with short dark hair. I remember only one lesson she taught – an art lesson. She looked at the drawing or painting I was creating and noted the diagonal line I drew on the page. She said she thought it represented the two sides to the issue (I think we were supposed to be creating our impressions of communism – or else I am mixing this up with another memory) – the light and the dark sides. The only other thing I remember about that painting was that I drew or painted some birds in the sky and a classmate wondered why there were pterodactyls or bomber jets in my artwork. Miss Woiwode’s validation of my primitive art was an important point in my life and I’ll not forget it.

The most memorable event during Miss Woiwode’s tenure in our classroom was the visit of her brother — Larry Woiwode — a published author. His book, What I’m Going to Do I Think, was a literary success and his second book, Beyond the Bedroom Wall had been considered for a movie. Mr Woiwode was young and, in my 6th grade girl’s eyes, handsome. He must have been in his mid to late twenties. I don’t remember much of his speech, except that he prefaced his answer to my question about the courses someone should take in college if one wanted to be an author, with “What a great question!”. That and he borrowed my turquoise pen to sign autographs and I insisted he keep it. I think. Or else someone else did that and were so open about their emotions that I absorbed it and made it my own memory.

This visit was an important one to the school. It was recorded and broadcast on closed circuit television. This was in the late 1960’s. I always wonder if the recording still exists and if so, in what format.

Until I met Larry Woiwode and asked him about college courses I had no desire to be a writer. But after meeting him as a 12 year old, I realized that I had the power to create words that others might read and laugh or cry. But that is not the regret.

Here is the regret. Miss Woiwode was getting married soon after her student teaching in our classroom ended. She invited the entire class to the wedding. I think we even got invitations in the mail. Maybe not. But I distinctly recall standing in my room in front of my closet. My mom asked if I wanted to go to the wedding. I think I said no. My mom seemed relieved. It seems that she may have said something about me not having anything to wear to the wedding. This might have been the day before the wedding or weeks before it. I know that I really wanted to go, but pretended I didn’t.

After the wedding the girls that did go talked about it. It was beautiful. Miss Woiwode was beautiful. And they danced — they danced with the groom and they danced with the brother.

My regret is that I didn’t dance with Larry Woiwode.

I didn’t know this was a regret until I watched a couple of videos of Mr Woiwode addressing a group of people last year in his native state of North Dakota, then I realized that all these years I’ve regretted not going to that wedding and being in the same room with this man again.

So Larry – if you see this. I’ve saved a dance for you.