May 17, 2017, Prescott-
In my twelve years of public education, 1956-1968, there were mostly competent educators, a few misfits and twelve stand-up, top flight professionals, who either were my teachers of record or served as mentors beyond the immediate classroom.
One, Miss Bernis Hanlon, passed on, over the weekend. She was my fifth grade teacher, and one of two at the Felton School, Saugus, MA, who went above and beyond, when it came to building character. It was largely Miss Hanlon’s influence that brought me out of my shell, had me at least approach a modicum of competence in a few sports and join the Boy Scouts. She taught us that boys and girls, working together, accomplish three times as much, as the genders working separately. She taught me that having a then little-known disability (mild autism) was never an excuse for not doing one’s level best. She built on the framework which my third grade teacher, the then Miss Joanne Nugent, had started.
Fast forward, to 1966-67, my Junior Year at Saugus High School. I had survived junior high school, the awkwardness, the quirky behaviour, which had generated taunts from otherwise good people, and the fires of our eighth grade year. Only the stalwart protection of Mr. Paul O’Brien, who died earlier this year, and Mr. Ron Ahern, and the character education of the late Miss Gladys Fox,kept me on an even keel. I had endured inept teachers, in three of my freshman classes. I had mastered grammar and punctuation, with the guidance of Miss Miriam Kochakian, as a Sophomore. It was the junior year that brought Mr. John Quinlan and understanding of Algebra, Mr. Bernard Hussey and a stellar United States History class, Mrs. Lillian Pittard Bisbee, and love of prose, and the renewed mentorship of Miss Hanlon, by then a colleague of Mrs. Bisbee and a full-on enthusiast of poetry and drama. The two ladies set the stage for Mrs. Katherine Vande and the best creative writing instruction I have ever had (Senior English).
Miss Hanlon was an integral part of that A-Team of mine, and I can’t imagine how my life would have played out, without her presence. I know she is smiling down on all of us whom she loved, with that reassuring, infectious Irish grin.