Little Geek.

Bell and Howell 16mm Movie Projector. Not my photo.

My second grade teacher was Mrs. Hayden. Situated in Room 108, Mrs. Hayden and second grade is probably the year I best remember from my elementary school years. Spelling tests included the word “deer”, when used in a sentence. We added and subtracted multiple columns of numbers. I was in the most advanced of the reading groups (there were three) and, if I’m remembering correctly, we went through two books of the Lippincott Early Reader series (maybe C and D?).

We had our desks arranged in rows and I sat in the back corner by the sink. Occasionally Mrs. Hayden would let me turn my desk sideways against the wall as I worked on my “seat work”. I wasn’t in trouble or anything, I think she just knew I needed a change of scenery once in a while. She smiled nicely and chatted with us in a way that made us feel like little adults. I remember one lunch time she told us her first name and that her husband was a barber. She lived in the next town over and drove through the snow to come to school everyday.

Mrs. Hayden knew I was a little geek; I was fascinated with the built-in vacuum system that we’d hold the blackboard erasers against on Friday afternoons to clean out the chalk dust. When the clock stopped (along with all the other clocks in the school), she let me go down to the office to turn in the attendance cards, where I watched the repairman work on the clock hanging behind Mrs. Youngs’ (the principal’s secretary) desk.

But most importantly in my second grade mind, Mrs. Hayden designated me as the person to run the Bell and Howell (or sometimes Singer) movie projector when it was time to watch 16 mm movies. At the beginning of the year she fumbled with the self-loading mechanism of the Bell and Howell projector and then I asked her if I could try loading it. I was successful and from that moment and throughout the year I ran the movie projector. I wore this as a huge badge of honor and only on one or two occasions did another person run the movie projector that year.

Perhaps my disappointment in those one or two occasions is why my desk was turned against the wall next to the sink.

Of all the teachers I had during my elementary years through the end of Grade Six, Mrs. Hayden was the one that really “got” me. I felt comfortable around her, I felt like I learned around her, and I excelled at my studies that year. She never seemed to get angry when someone was misbehaving, in fact, I don’t remember any incidents of anyone misbehaving that year.

Today our home in Chicago is situated near the old Bell and Howell factory complex where they made those movie projectors. During my walks of exercise I often walk by “Bell & Howell Lofts” and I think of Mrs. Hayden. She retired nearly 20 years ago. I found her profile on Facebook a few years ago and she is still as pretty as I remember her to be back in 1975.

I hope when she looks back on her teaching career she smiles about her experiences with all those students as much as I do when remembering how she encouraged me to be a little geek.

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