Teetering along the school hallway in a red flowered kimono and Mrs. Dickson's traditional Japanese shoes. Parading around with classmates to the sounds of music from far-off lands. Lingering scents of foreign foods from the Far East to the Southwest.
I remember the day well — she was that type of teacher. We were in second grade, but a dozen years later the memories of that cultural lesson and many others are still vivid.
Her name, by the way, is Eleanor Dickson, but to me she will always be Mrs. Dickson. We remember her because she is a teacher at heart and left a lasting impression on us. She adores us because we are her students, her pride and joy.
In June, she said goodbye to her final second-grade class, ending a 40-year career during which she taught an estimated 1,200 students at three schools in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.
As much as I pride myself on how well I remember the day we celebrated foreign countries, Mrs. Dickson remembers infinitely more: countless classroom festivities, ever-changing lesson plans and so, so many kids. Now, 40 years after she started, she laughs as she reflects on her many years of teaching.
Mrs. Dickson said that when she taught her first class in 1966, education was a different business.
"When I started teaching, you were either a nurse or a teacher," she says matter-of-factly. "There weren't as many professions open then as there are now for women."
Women couldn't even wear pants in their classrooms. But looking at Mrs. Dickson today, it's clear that the more outdated aspects of a teaching career haven't worn on this timeless woman.
She still doesn't like pants, jeans or anything with two legs, instead opting for dresses and long skirts. When we sat down to look through old photos and school mementos, she wore a long, brightly colored skirt, a royal purple top, classy gold jewelry and chic espadrilles.
She doesn't dress like someone who has spent 40 years in a classroom. It's remarkable to realize that she's actually been in school continuously since age 5. As a child in Fresno, school was nearly all she thought about.