Mad for…Mary Ann

Love all in God and for God, all will be well. -St. (Mother) Theodore Guerin

Day 99 of 365: Mary Ann Grove

When I was about the same age as the handsome young man standing with her, above, I was also a student at St. Lawrence Catholic School in Lafayette and Mary Ann Grove was my third grade teacher. Well, actually, she was “Miss Mecklenberg” back then. I realize now she must have been just a baby, because it’s been a while since I’ve been in the third grade! I recognize that sanctuary behind her in the photo from my grade school years. It’s gotten some updates over time, but the words in the background that are cut off by the photo read, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

As teachers go, “Miss Mecklenberg” was really just remarkable. She smiled and she laughed a lot. She had a great sense of humor and that infectious laughter filled the classroom with her sunshine. I had a large class all through grade school, and in most years, our numbers hovered north of 35 students. There was only one classroom per grade, and the vast majority of my classmates were boys. In other words, there was a lot of noise and chaos. I don’t know how they do things now, but back then, the classes took turns preparing the school masses. When it was our turn, teachers would choose students to read, bring up the gifts, etc. At this age, there were quite a few readers always chosen, as in addition to the mass readings and responsorial psalm, she would have a different student read each petition. It really was amazing how many children she managed to involve as I look back on it.

However, I remember so vividly being truly disappointed that I was NOT chosen to help that fall of 3rd grade year. I’m pretty sure I had a minor meltdown over it. Nothing has changed with me over time when things don’t go my way…ha? The poor woman! That last thing she needed in her jammed full classroom was another high maintenance kid. She really could have rolled her eyes and told me to get over myself. Who would have blamed her? That’s not what she did, though. Instead, she pulled me aside later and told me she had something very special in mind for me for our Christmas mass in a few weeks if I could be patient. I received her kindness as a great gift. I do not recall her words exactly but I remember very clearly how she made me feel loved and valued.

Thank goodness God sees our hearts and His love isn’t dependent on how we act. He’s a lot like Mary Ann Grove that way. Some teachers are so filled with compassion for their students that they truly are the face of Christ everyday. I recall her as a woman who was always lifting up, holding, and serving others. The work of her hands was something to behold, and her witness of what it looks like to love others first has always stuck with me as something I wanted to emulate. The world sometimes overlooks gems like Mary Ann Grove. To the students, friends, family members and community that she has touched over the years, there are few gifts more precious than those shared by this amazing woman.

This weekend as she celebrates her birthday, I wanted to take a moment to reach out and say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of the finest teachers I’ve ever encountered! I’ve been gone from Lafayette for a while, but I’ve kept an eye on you. What you have spent your life doing is one of the most beautiful things imaginable! I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to be a student in one of your classes! I hope all your people love you up like crazy this birthday weekend! THANK YOU FOR BEING YOU!

Mad for…Theresa

Even when alone, be cheerful, remembering always that you are in the sight of angels. –St. Therese of Lisieux

Stunningly beautiful, isn’t she? I’ll admit I’ve had hair and skin envy forever! This is Theresa Clark. I’ve known Theresa for several years as she has been a junior high teacher at St. Louis de Montfort for….quite a while. She’s right in the middle of teaching my youngest at the moment. I’m sure that last Thieme kid leaving the building will be a tough loss for her, ha?! One thing that confounds me about Theresa is that she NEVER AGES. She taught my oldest son, Nick, in 7th and 8th grade and he is a junior in college now. Theresa looks EXACTLY the same. I always wonder to myself what is her secret?

Theresa is a phenomenal human being and very famous dog lover. To say that her dog, Tillie, is beloved would be a major understatement. However, that is not what I most adore about Theresa. What makes her outstanding to me is that she is just plain cheerful. No matter what her day is like, Theresa can be counted on for just a gorgeous grin. Her smile is one that melts hearts. She smiles with her whole face, and even her eyes twinkle. It’s almost as if she instinctively knows that it simply doesn’t take any more effort to see the good than it does to focus on the bad.

Theresa warms others around her with her positive glow. I’m sure she doesn’t always FEEL perky and sunny, but it’s what she gives the world, and our world is one in DESPERATE need of such selflessness. On one of my most difficult days of 2019, I ran into Theresa at church at SLDM. She had no way of knowing that the news I had received that day was really tough, she simply did what she does and she smiled at me and said, “Good morning, Mrs. Thieme!” It was a tiny moment to her, but to me that day, it felt like the Lord smiling at me and just telling me to take a deep breath. I needed a little bit of Jesus and there was Theresa with her kindness. She goes out of her way to smile and her laugh is just genuine and lovely. She’s got a great sense of humor and I have to believe she’s a joy to have as a teaching partner. She throws light into the world, it’s just who she is!

Theresa, I feel truly fortunate that my three sons have had such a genuine, faith-filled, and lovely human teaching them social studies over the years. As a parent, it’s very heartening to be greeted with a smile by my child’s teacher– it’s a thing you never fail to do– even when I know that a classroom full of hormonal teenagers must have gotten the better of you now and then. I’m thankful for how hard you work, how much you care, and who you are! The Thieme clan will surely miss Theresa Clark!! You are a big scoop of awesome!

“There is no personal charm so great as the charm of a cheerful temperament.”