More than 60 years later, I often think about Mrs. Naomi Weller, my eight-grade English teacher. (That’s when we still called it “English” class.)
Mrs. Weller was a stickler for grammar. Of the many things that I can remember about her class, she taught us how to diagram sentences, a skill which I use to this day. When I have to decide whether to use “who” or “whom” or if I have to decide if it’s okay to dangle a participle, I think about those classes. Those grammar lessons have even helped me teach my wife Spanish or in my own foreign language conversations that I have on a regular basis with friends in Argentina and France.
Most of my classmates fell asleep during her lessons or were totally bored. I happen to have had a mother who until the day she died would wink at me when she heard people committing heinous grammar errors such as “between you and I” or “me and my wife.” So I have always considered myself a “grammar snob.”
This past week I was reminded about Mrs. Weller once again. Early in the last few mornings, our backyard lake was enshrouded in fog.
I have always been fascinated by the particular weather conditions which create fog. According to my internet search, it happens when the “lake water is heated by the sun and stays warmer than the air temperature during the cool night. When the cold layer of still air settles over the lake, the warm water vapor from the pond evaporates and enters the cool air above it. The cool air then traps the concentrated water vapor,” thereby forming the fog.
Now you ask, why did this make me think of Mrs. Weller? In addition to her grammar lessons, she also taught us to appreciate poetry. She posted a daily poem on the blackboard and we would analyze it for its use of different parts of speech or how new words were strung together in a novel way to convey a special thought.
Carl Sandburg’s “Fog” was one of those poems.
For some reason, I remember exactly where her class was on the second floor of the Henry B. Whitehorne Junior High School in Verona, New Jersey.
I found out recently that Mrs. Weller is no longer alive. She would probably have been happy to know what an impact she has had on me for over 60 years!