Finding Mrs. Mischka
By Kahlynn Hunt
Recruiting Manager, Grammarly.com
My childhood curiosity was as insatiable as my energy was abundant. With a popsicle-stained tongue and grass-covered knees, my younger self pranced through the world like a wild thing — one shoe invariably untied. In elementary school, recess volunteers would remember me as this portrait of a young zealot, frozen in time. But there was one woman who saw me through a different lens.
Her name was Mrs. Mischka; she was our school’s librarian.
One hour per day, thrice per week, my first grade class stormed the cold, quiet labyrinth of books at the library to update our reading lists, puzzle through the Dewey Decimal System, and, of course, get an update on how many kids longer we had to wait to check out the newest Guinness Book of World Records. I always felt lost, sick of whispering, and eager to play outside.
Taking notice, Mrs. Mischka started spending special time with me to help find books that kept me interested. I don’t know if she actually allocated “special” time to me or not; I just know that I always thought of it as our special time together. I would report back to her with the details of the book we chose together the week before. I remember giving Mary Amato’s The Word Eater a fair review, but it wasn’t until she laid Andrew Clements’ Frindle in my hands that I truly became hooked on reading.
“This book is … good!” I exclaimed after reading Frindle. The book centers on a precocious fifth grader who decided to call a pen a frindle and ends up challenging not only his dictionary-loving teacher, but the entire lexicographical principle and the power we have on words.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized all of the books that Mrs. Mischka directed me towards as a child were about a spirited young person questioning authority, creating her own path, and standing up, against all odds, for what she believes is right. I can’t accept it as mere coincidence that I found my passion in philosophy and political science; two subjects that powerfully investigate the very thought patterns my inaugural mentor introduced me to at a young age.
Perhaps she always knew who I was meant to be.
On my last day of high school, I was called to the principal’s office. Although I hadn’t spoken to Mrs. Mischka since I was 11 years old and made the big move up to fifth grade at the middle school, she sent me a congratulatory card for all of my accomplishments to date. She had since retired and moved away, but somehow kept an eye on me as I climbed my way up and out of school. That summer, my parents sold my childhood home, I went off to college, and the card was lost before I had a chance to reply.
Lydia Mischka was the catalyst for my love of knowledge, language, and books. And today, what began as an overzealous young girl wandering the library in search of a good book, has become an accomplished young woman searching the world for that gentle librarian she found long ago. I’ve decided to contact my school district to find out where Mrs. Mischka is now. I know that she would be thrilled to learn I now work with a company that helps to improve written communication. She had a similar penchant for encouraging improvement.
Perhaps, serendipitously, she’s reading this now?
I can only hope that one day soon I have the chance to thank Mrs. Mischka for the positive impact she’s had on my life. I encourage all of you to take a few minutes to do the same.
Were you lucky enough to have a teacher impact your love of reading, writing, or learning? Share your story with us in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, May 6 - 10, 2013.
A woman of many hats, Kahlynn Hunt works with Grammarly to help perfect written English. Connect with Kahlynn, the Grammarly team, and more than 655,000 Grammarly Facebook fans at www.facebook.com/grammarly.
Grading English 101 Essays
By Sam Pierstorff
Eight done and I can’t bear anymore—
can’t bear the fragments, sentences with broken legs,
crawling through each paragraph without the crutch of verbs.
I’m usually awakened by the poetry in at least
one student’s line—the girl with wild black hair,
plum lips, nose pierced like a dartboard’s bull’s eye—
or the hippie dude in a Che t-shirt, 10 years too old
for junior college, his dirty hair rolled like Havanna cigars.
But not yet, so far it’s just the late-night,
last minute usuals who think periods must be bullets
because it’d kill them to stop a run-on.
I loathe these long nights. The pit of my stomach
feels like a classroom of 4-year-olds with scissors
and a book on making kites.
I am sick of grading, sick of inserting commas
like fish hooks into the murky lakes
of each essay. It’s all sludge and algae.
Show me a rainbow trout, a steelhead, an ounce
of well-reasoned prose and I will dangle myself all night
on a pole of modifiers until something starts to bite.