Write to a special teacher…


photo by my Chandra

Once upon a time, in sixth grade, we were introduced to Shakespeare.

three witches in Macbeth

The three witches in Macbeth

Our teacher, Miss (sounds like) Merovitz, taught Macbeth. She acted out the roles as she read aloud — she must have known the play by heart and obviously loved it. I was mesmerized. The woman turned me on to Shakespeare. Much later, I thoroughly enjoyed his work and Macbeth remains my favorite.

In junior high, we had a class called ‘Music Appreciation’. Mr. Hopper, our teacher, played recordings of classical pieces for us and at exam time, we were expected to recognize the piece and know who the composer was. (I made up words to the music which helped identify which piece was which. It worked.) One

Modest Musssorgsky, 1839-81

Mussorgsky 1839-81

was ‘Night on Bare Mountain’ by Mussorgsky, another, ‘Fingal’s

Felix Mendelssohn, 1809-47

Mendelssohn 1809-47

Cave Overture’ by Mendelssohn. (By the way, I highly recommend a fascinating book called ‘Mendelssohn is on the Roof’ by Czech author Jiri Weil — a fascinating read.)


Jiri Weil 1900-59, Czech author

Jiri Weil 1900-59

Was Mr. Hopper an especially, exciting teacher? Absolutely not. He was a bore — in retrospect probably a shy man who played piano. However, he received ten tickets to the Metropolitan Opera’s performance of Saint-Saens’ Sampson and Delilah. Why he chose to give ME one, I’ll never know. Montreal didn’t have an opera house then. Undaunted, the Met performed at the Forum, a hockey arena. My seat high up in the bleachers wasn’t too high for me to be enchanted. I’d never seen or heard anything so beautiful. To this day, merely two of the first notes of that gorgeous aria are enough for me to recognize it. (Mr. Hopper would be proud indeed.) I’m sure I thanked him for the ticket, but that would have been all. I had no idea what an important role opera would play in my later life.

This October, for the first time since I saw this performance so many years ago, I will see it again. The Met is doing Sampson and Delilah. I’m excited. I’ll be in my seat at my local theatre on a Saturday morning watching, listening and enjoying.

Camille Saint-Saens

Saint-Saens 1835-1921

At the time, we held teachers in awe — like one step down from God. I certainly didn’t feel they would be interested or care about my reaction to anything. Besides, it was many years later, after my children were grown, that I was finally able to find the time to attend performances. Only then did I realize the gifts these two teachers had given me so long ago.

Things have changed. Teachers are now more approachable, students have easy access to email and can more easily send notes of appreciation to teachers who are special in some way. My son, Rafi, teaches high school. He receives notes and letters from students, former students, and parents who want him to know how much they have appreciated him. I know how much it means to him and love that it happens. So, if a teacher has been meaningful in your life, do take the time to let him/her know.


photo from newspaperRafi

Rafi, teacher of the year, 2012

Okay I’ll brag. I’m a proud mom. Rafi was nominated ‘Teacher of the Year’ in 2012 out of 5,000 teachers in the county. The guy was born to teach. He profoundly cares about his work and his students. He’ll probably be annoyed with me for doing this, but do watch him at it in the short video below taken during a student walkout at his school where an unpleasant racial incident occurred right after Trump was elected. Go, Rafi, go!

To see him at it, click below:




12 thoughts on “Write to a special teacher…

  1. Oh my goodness, that’s incredible! Rafi, rapping!! I wish more people would understand that rapping can and does contain important messages for all of us. To me, it hearkens back to a time when poetry, teaching, drama and history were shared orally. Every culture went through this phase of development, and some are still at it! And about teaching, I totally agree with you that a good teacher can help to change our lives, and open our minds in a positive way. My husband, a close friend, and a favourite uncle were all dedicated teachers who made a difference in their students’ lives. Beautifully written, Muriel!

  2. No wonder Rafi was chosen Teacher of the Year in 2012 out of 5,000. He is a new generation teacher who blends in with his students using Rap to communicate. This is new to me so it is hard to comment on how Rap is beneficial or not. It certainly has a great appeal to many students as can be seen on the video. Great blog on how teachers can influence a student’s future. I had my favorite teachers from elementary through high school and through college. Their influence on me was perhaps as powerful as my parents’ guidance. I am sure that Rafi’s popularity among his students is a positive example of how a good teacher gains the respect of the student body. With regard to your Music Appreciation class where Mr. Hoffer gave you a ticket to the Met, that was a lucky day for you. How a boring man who played the piano was able to create your life long interest in opera is a amazing. It only proves that luck plays a big role in how we respond to our teachers. Great blog Muriel.

    • Yes, it IS a new world Joe: And Rafi relates well with his students. Things are so different today than they were when you and I were young. It is a privilege to be able to see all the changes taking place in our schools. Some for the better, in teachers like Rafi.
      Thanks for reading, Muriel

  3. Since I play a role in this post, I should say that this moment was not a traditional lesson. It must be filed under an emotional response in an emotional moment, one that hopefully imparted a perspective on the issues that my school and students were navigating at the time. After all, that’s the best we can hope to offer. As in literary analysis, I offer no answers, only perspectives. That being said, I agree with this post in that acknowledging our teachers goes a long way, as does acknowledging each other. Perhaps that’s what’s most important, to honor what those around us have brought to us. Like my mom, who shared her love of learning and thinking with me. If only I could turn it off now and then to get a few more hours of sleep.

    • Thank you Rafi: I laughed out loud at your last sentence. You do me more honor than I deserve. Surely I’ve learned more from you than you ever did from me. You’re quite a guy! I am so very proud of you!!!! Love, Mom

  4. i feel that the respect once shown to teachers by both students and parents has declined from when I started teaching many years ago so it is good to see such recognition of those you remember Muriel. I liked Rafi’s approach to that emotional occasion and his great rapport with students which must carry over to his classrooms so he well deserves his ‘Teacher of the Year’ award. Most teachers have to work so very hard and and long so I also understand and appreciate his desire for more hours for sleep.

  5. Hello Muriel!
    So wonderful to see you learn so enthusaastically..You really set an example for people my age 🙂
    I wonder how is Mr.Rafi in person, but surely from the video he turns out to be a really “cool” teacher 😀 I haven’t heard such great rapping before (from a first timer, of course). I am sure had he been in my school he would have won the teacher of the year award here too! I am really starting to be envious of his students (Just Kidding :-D)
    And just an aside –
    I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award 🙂 here: https://dementiasdiariesdd.wordpress.com/2018/05/21/my-first-nomination-the-versatile-blogger-award/
    Because I wanted to connect more viewers to your creative words 😉 I hope the plan goes well 🙂

  6. Wow Mridula: It’s been years since I was nominated for anything so grand. Thank you so much for reading my blog. I’m delighted you enjoy it. I certainly enjoy writing it. All the best.

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