Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The End of an Era......A Tribute to Mrs. Renata and Mr. Allen

As summer draws to a close and it is time to prepare for a new school year, my heart and thoughts are on two people that have been my teaching partners for many years, but I will not have to lean on, complain to, plan with, laugh with, or share ideas (and bacon cheddar fries) with. They are my friends, my partners in crime, and two of the best teachers and people I have ever known. This post is in loving memory of Mr. Danny Allen and retirement wishes to Mrs. Renata Henson,

Since I have been a 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Renata has been there by my side. We nicknamed ourselves Lucy and Ethel from the beginning as we labored, rather clumsily, to move my belongings up to the 3rd floor. We crashed the shopping cart crammed full of  books and supplies and made a basic mess of things. Always ready with a song, we started singing the Diamond Rio classic "What a Beautiful Mess" and the best years of my teaching and a beautiful friendship had begun.

As I reflect on my years of working with Renata there are many stories, laughs, and events that make me smile and cry and miss her so much. Here are a few classic "Renata-isms" and words that describe her so well.

1. Smile and nod: Whenever lesson plan formats changed for the millionth time, when certain administrators ruffled our feathers,  the work load was about to overwhelm us, or we were told to try techniques we knew were not practical, her wise words- Smile and Nod- kept us grounded.

2. Take a Deep Breath: This phrase was used by Renata many times when kids were overly excited or rowdy, and on teachers as well when we needed to be settled down. She will need to call me and say these words as I face my first school year without her.

3. Chocolate milk during planning: A great start to the day. Not to mention bacon cheddar fries, honey mustard pringles, and various chocolate bars that never lasted very long in our teacher lunch bucket.

4. High heels: as most teachers wear flats and tennis shoes so we can be comfortable on our feet all day, Mrs. Renata never gave in to this fashion faux-pas. She wore her pretty high-heeled shoes or sandals and I can't tell you how much I will miss the sound of those heels clicking down our hallway and coming into my classroom.

5. The number 75: Whenever there was a quantity that needed to be expressed, it was 75. "I have told you 75 times, we have been doing this for 75 years, you're going to write that 75 times."

6. High Octane: Renata has enough energy to fuel 75 cities. Most days I feel like a sloth, slug, or various other slow animals when I am in her presence. She is always on the go, ready to face any challenge, and is never still for one second.

7. Dedication: a hard-working professional who loves kids, expects great things from them, has a calm, steady classroom, and one that former students always remember so fondly. Her retirement is well-deserved. My mind is so happy for her, but my heart needs her to be next door to me.

The Renata memories could go on and on, but as I reflect on them, the stories intersect fun times and laughs we shared with Mr. Danny Allen. With his passing on the last day of school, there is a void at CCES and in the hearts of many that will never be filled. I think of him every time I step onto our 3rd floor hallway and pass his room, when I have a snarky comment to share that only he would get, and whenever I have to make a schedule and it takes me forever to figure it out. (Danny could fix a schedule in 1 minute flat). I was so blessed to teach across the hallway from this wonderful person and friend. Mr. Allen was such a positive male figure for many kids who had none of their own. Every 5th grader wanted to be in his class, parents wanted their child to have him, and teachers wanted to be in his presence.

1. Smack my Hand: Mr. Allen very seldom had a negative comment to make about others, but on the rare occasion when he did, he would hold his hand out for Renata and I to smack it. The three of us worked together long enough where we could read each others' minds and would hold our hands out to be smacked without saying a word. One arch of Danny's eyebrow said it all.

2. A piece of paper. When students would ask him for a piece of paper, he would smile, say "Sure!" and tear a tiny piece of paper from a full sheet and hand it to them. His eyes would twinkle and sparkle each time a student fell for this.

3. Can I go to the Bathroom? When 5th graders asked this question, his reply was always, "I don't know? Can you?" It didn't take too many times before the kids learned to ask, "May I?" All of these phrases were used jokingly. He never belittled or was sarcastic with the students and they loved him for it.

4. Seinfeld moments: I can't tell you the number of times we have experienced Seinfeld moments with Mr. Allen. From delicate geniuses, loud talkers, close talkers, I'm out baby, etc. If you're not a fan of the show, these phrases won't make sense to you. (not that there's anything wrong with that.)

5. Long-suffering: As one of only 2 male teachers at our school, Mr. Allen had to suffer through many girlie  conversations where he would laughingly plug his ears. He had to endure the strong smell of perfume, and the ever-changing moods of his female coworkers. Not many men could withstand this, but there aren't many men like Danny Allen.

6. Toe-Touches: Mr. Allen was a jack of many trades, but what impressed 5th graders the most was the awesome toe-touch he would perform when students achieved certain milestones. They would BEG him to do this and squeal with delight as he did a toe-touch that most cheerleaders would kill for!

7. Again...dedication: Mr. Allen was not only a teacher but a coach, chess club sponsor, bus driver, mentor, and so much more. He was the calm in mine and Renata's storm. The level headed voice among our rants. How he will be missed, there are no words to express. RIP Spirit in the Sky.

So the 2013-2014 school year begins with my  not so new partners in crime- Ms. Kacey and Mrs. Karen whom I adore and will share more special moments and memories in the very near future. Ms. Kacey is  Mutt to my Jeff and Mrs. Karen and I randomly break out in song at any given moment. What a blessing to have such wonderful people to share my days, triumphs, ups, and downs and make new memories, while I hear Mr. Allen's laughter and Mrs. Renata's wedge sandals clicking down the hallway.

I hope everyone has an awesome school year....Where Dreams Begin!

These videos are in honor and memory of my dear friends Renata Henson and Danny Allen.


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