As a student-teacher in 1969 I walked into Ann Henderson’s fourth- grade classroom in P.S.63 feeling ill-equipped and unprepared to face the challenge ahead. I had to learn to become a teacher and this stately African American woman I had just met for the first time was going to make sure I got it right.
I saw a classroom unlike no other. Every child had a smile on their face and a desire to learn. They had an air of self-confidence. They were busy with projects and cooperated with each other on every assignment. They raised their hands eagerly to answer questions and applauded when a word was spelled correctly. There was a magic in the air. It was called self- assurance. It was the gift she bestowed on every student. I was lucky enough to have that gift bestowed on me.
With each lesson I gained an inner strength. She convinced me that I was capable of anything. I was, “so bright, there was no-one like you … the sky’s the limit for someone like you.” With each passing day an air of self- confidence overtook any misgivings I had about teaching. I felt success knocking at my door, calling me in to meet every challenge.
After I graduated Brooklyn College in 1970, my husband and I moved to Germantown, Pa. He attended the Philadelphia College of Optometry and I found a job as a third-grade teacher. I wasn’t nervous or scared of the responsibility. I had to support us for four years and pay tuition. Although I was only 22- years-old, I had the assurance of an old pro. I walked into the John B. Kelly school and became Ann Henderson, only with my special style.
Confidence is the greatest gift one can pass on to another. Self -assurance is the enemy of dependence. When one feels good about themselves there is no task too great, no problem that can’t be solved.
Ann Henderson changed my life in every way possible. I still believe there is nothing I can’t do if I put my mind to it. She made me feel special, as she did the hundreds of kids she taught.
We still talk on the phone every couple of weeks. I never want to lose her special spirit. Whenever I am down and I need a spiritual lift I call Ann and I’m renewed.
Weinberger is a North Woodmere resident.