Thank You, Mrs. Hodes

Tuesday’s post on the power of teachers — and the importance of thanking them — brought plenty of positive comments.

It also elicited this story from an “06880” reader, who wished to remain anonymous.

I had Shirley Hodes for Latin at Staples.   She was also the advisor to Inklings, so I spent a fair amount of time with her.  She was a wonderful teacher.

Most of the kids were goofballs and rowdy in her Latin class.  But she plugged on, determined to teach us something about language, history and life in general.

As earnest as she was about teaching, she was far from naïve.  Once, during a test, she said to the class:  “I’m going to step out of the room for a minute.  I would appreciate it if everyone stopped cheating until I get back.”  She was so ironic that way.  I loved her class.

A trip to Pompeii inspires a postcard.

About a dozen years after I graduated, in the summer of 1998, I was traveling in Italy and visited the ruins of Pompeii.  In Latin class we had an entire unit built around a fictional family living in Pompeii, shortly before the volcano decimated the city.  So of course it reminded me of Mrs. Hodes.

I bought a postcard, wrote a note thanking her for her meaningful class and the influence it had on me, but (in that pre-internet era) I did not have her address.  So I called my mom from Italy, told her about the postcard, and asked her to please check the phonebook and call Mrs. Hodes to get her address (I recalled that she lived in Weston or Wilton).

A few days later, still in Italy, I called my mom back for the address.  She was all shaken up.

She said:  “You’re not going to believe this.  I found the number and called the house.  A man answered.  I asked if this was the residence of Shirley Hodes, the teacher at Staples.

“He asked me why I was calling, and I told him.  He said she died 2 days ago.”

I couldn’t believe it.  I was so upset that she didn’t get my postcard.  But I did the next best thing:  I mailed it anyway, hoping her relatives would get it and know that she was appreciated.

It’s amazing:  Sometimes the coincidences in life are stranger than the wildest fiction.

12 responses to “Thank You, Mrs. Hodes

  1. Good for you..paying it forward..I somehow feel she got to read the postcard..I’m child like that way..I had Edna Kearns…She was another gem..
    How she ever summoned the verve to pass me was always a mystery..
    She was a wonderful teacher..

    • Charlie, my sister Suzy ’65, took Latin from Edna for three years and loved her. Suzy’s daughter also took Latin in high school, Edna’s legacy, no doubt.

  2. The Dude Abides

    Interesting that McKelvy and Hodes were both Latin teachers. Maybe there is something there. But for the life of me, I can not remember a single female teacher at Staples. Granted it was 45 years ago but still . . . I guess it was a rarity back then even to have that many male teachers.

    • Probably a fluke, Dude. I had Miss MacCleer for French, Ms. Mango for geometry, Mrs. MacMurtrie for biology and Minnie Komogombe, Roberta Gallagher and Joy Walker for English. A lot of male teachers, too. I liked almost all my teachers, male and female — and I was a terrible student!

  3. I loved Latin class at Staples. Mrs. Hodes was a great teacher. Thanks for the reminder. You have reminded me of the reasons why I teach, am president of my local teacher’s association, and advocate for students and teachers.

  4. The Dude Abides

    You have an incredible memory Tommy. Mine is mush. I wonder if they still teach Latin at Staples? Professor??

    • Latin is a very popular subject at Staples. For years it was taught by “Magister” Sullivan — a wonderful and beloved former Jesuit priest. The current teacher — Jennifer Huettner — is also a gem.

      In addition, Staples offers Spanish, French, German, Italian and Mandarin.

      One final note: it’s no longer the “Foreign Language” department. It’s now called “World Language.” Much more contemporary.

  5. I think I’m just two or three years younger than The Dude and I had quite a few female teachers…both of my Spanish teachers, Keith and Atkins; all three of my English teachers, including one called English and one called Harvey, who had been their forever. I know the French department had women. I don’t recall any in History.

    • Lee Wall was the only female social studies teacher.

      Interestingly, both the science and math departments are now at least 50% female, in terms of teachers. Tons of girls take advanced courses in those departments. They (and the guys) have some excellent female role models!

      • It is strange now that I think of it: all of my history, English, math, and science teachers at Staples were male. I had Miss Atkins for Spanish–and she was outstanding (I had posted about her before)–and female teachers for typing and cooking, but basically, that was it. What were the odds of that happening? See you at the reunion of the greatest class in Staples history.

        • The Dude Abides

          Fred: Sorry but the class of ’66 already had our reunion on the weekend of July 22nd.

      • Hey Dan-In 1966 my Mom was just about to be a teacher in the Social Studies department. Karley Higgins, now Karley Meltzer. Maybe she moved to Staples from Bedford in 69? Not sure. As late as the early 80s when I was at Staples most of my teachers were male.