I couldn’t find her on Facebook. Texting’s not an option. I’m not sure she even has a cell phone. I don’t have her number.
But I do know this: Mildred Leaver just turned 108 years old this month. She was my grade school principal. And 55 years ago she helped me, a developmentally challenged child—left-handed with a dose of ADD as yet undiagnosed—to wrangle my world…tie my shoes, stuff like that.
She disciplined me when I threw rocks at school windows, and bandaged my playground wounds when I tumbled off the slide. Best I can calculate, she’s probably done that for about a hundred thousand other kids over her glorious career as a school teacher and principal.
She’s been retired for a few years now, well-deserved after decades as a state and national leader in public education. People still seek her advice, and Lord knows, Mildred Leaver has the experience.
She taught in Rolla. But her influence reaches into every corner of Missouri. She campaigned vigorously to improve teacher salaries, and opened the door for generations of teachers, even as the subversive campaign heats up to shut down public education.
Like most early education professionals, she was probably more important to most of her students than the great teachers down the road. She’s outlived a good many of us…in more ways than one.
I think I know where she lives. So I guess I’ll have to get off my lazy electronified ass and find her, visit her, and wish her happy birthday in person. She’ll appreciate the gesture, I hope.
But even more than that, it’ll be fun—an adventure, really – to turn the clock back to a time when communication wasn’t dominated by texting or tweeting, but by touching and talking.
(Photo by Lynda Mahana, Atlanta GA)
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