She Was A Spanish Teacher - Part 1

So many lives she had brightened
Around the world she enlightened
Always with a wondrous smile
That dazzled brighter than diamonds and pearls
She was more precious than any gem you see
As she worked tirelessly
To make the world a better place to be.

Her life as vibrant as the colors she wore
Loving everyone without settles to score
A golden heart open to all
Always answering the call
For so many lives she has deeply touched
Worldwide, no scale could measure how much.

Upon sending her home to the sky above
Five miracles we did see
She was painting heaven with rainbows in hand
We knew then forever with us she'll be
Within our hearts, she'll always have a place
With her loving smile upon her face.

When going through the journey of recovery and learning to be well again, writing is often encouraged to help tell the story of how things got to the way they are.  It can be helpful to write about your experiences and help bring an inner peace - you'll soon figure out that you are not alone and you may save someone else by sharing.

The following was submitted by someone we have in our network and currently undergoing care. Names, places, and other identifying information has been redacted or generalized in order to protect the author's identity.  We always encourage people to share as part of promoting our mission and are happy to do so when they are ready.  

Some of this content is graphic and is intended for adults only.

We are in need of donations to assist in continuing her care - she's off to a good start and we want to keep it that way.


 

You never know the impact someone has on your life until the person is gone.  However, is that person truly gone when their teachings and your memories of them live on through you?

 

        My first encounter with Ms. M was the start of my freshman year.  There was this short woman, wearing all fluorescent clothes, dancing with an enormous amount of energy and singing in Spanish in the hallway at 7am.  My first thought when I saw this was, “Oh God, I hope this is not one my teachers.” I looked at the floor and went to my homeroom.  And for the first month, she wasn’t.   I was in a Spanish 1B class, never had taken a Spanish class in my life, so 1B was for starters. From the start I remember thinking there was something wrong with this guy, Mr. C, my teacher.  He would say inappropriate things to the class flirt with the girls and always threaten to throw out the guys.  He had said some inappropriate things to me directly.  My gut told me this was wrong and I tried to get out of his class and my guidance counselor wouldn’t listen to me.  I finally went to the principal with the threat of going to the Board of Education that finally got my plea heard.  My guidance counselor pulled me from the class and told me my only option was Spanish 1A (advanced) and being a month in, I might struggle, but it was my only choice.  I took it and just my luck; I got the crazy lady singing in the hallway.

        I went to her class and wanted nothing to do with it.  Actually I wanted nothing to do with school or anything really.  I tried to sit in the utmost back corner of the room because my goal was always be quiet, not be noticed, hopefully to keep me from being beat up or incessantly harassed as I did in many of my other classes.  Being bullied was a way of life for me since elementary school when in Kindergarten I was stabbed in the back with a pencil by another kid.  I was chased off the bus almost daily by no less than 10 kids all the way home.  I remember sitting in the principal’s office with a sandwich bag full of my hair that had been pulled out.  Things did not change when I got to high school. As a matter of fact they got worse.

        So naturally, I sat in the most back corner of the room listening to this lady speak nothing but Spanish and not understanding a word of it, not even when she would say my name in Spanish so I had no idea she was talking to me, until she would stand in front of me with her hands on my desk.  I started out in the class okay.  Things were rough with being bullied at school, being beat at home, being told I was worthless, informed I was a mistake and not supposed to be born, and I would never make anything of myself. I was dealing with nightmares from the past and present which was causing me not to sleep and with no one to talk to things were bottling up fast especially with the death of my grandfather the previous year.  I was failing quizzes and tests, putting my head down and going to sleep, generally disinterested and not caring.   Ms. M knew something wasn’t right and that something was going on with me, but she didn’t know quite what.  She would approach me and I would deny it.  I was not about to trust a teacher with anything.  It grew into not only getting my attention in class, but stopping me in the hallways when she saw me, asking me how I was (in Spanish).  I wouldn’t look her in the eye because I did not want her to know anything and definitely did not want her to see it.  She got one word answers, “Nothing”.   This went on for months.

Ms. M’s routine for class beginning  every morning talking about the daily news of the world.  A sports star was on trial for rape and I remember reading the article and got to the part where the sports star said he didn’t think he had hurt anyone.  I blew up by swearing and kicking a desk over as I walked out.  Realizing I was most likely going to be questioned after this, I ditched school the next day.  I got a phone call at home and was caught in a lie by Ms. M.  I was ordered to stop and see her the following morning without question and without fail.  The next morning came and I hid in my homeroom, or so I thought.  I heard her coming and ducked into an adjoining science room.  I heard she had popped her head in, asked if anyone had seen me and left.  I thought she had given up and thought I was safe to go to class.  Wrong again.  She caught me and told me that if I did not report to the cafeteria early for lunch, she would be calling home.  I got to the café and at the very last second tried to chicken out and just as I tried to leave, I got snagged and pulled to the picnic tables outsides in private.  She asked me what was going on and I told her I didn’t know what she was talking about.  

She said, “Don’t you think it’s time to stop playing games?”  I denied I knew what she was talking about.  Then she said to me, “I know what happened and I know what you are going through.”  With a confused look on my face, I asked her how she found out.  She told me it was by watching me and my reactions to various things. I finally broke. 

 I told her what happened when I was 10 years old, I was sexually assaulted by a friend of my father who had just shown up out of the blue and my parents took him in.  He had stayed with us for a week in the basement before the morning it happened.  My mother had left for work with instructions that I was to wake him up before I left for school.  She also told me I had better not miss the bus again.  So at 7:30 am I woke him up and he asked me to lay in bed with him.  I stayed for a few minutes and got uncomfortable when I started to feel him wiggle behind me.  I went upstairs and was watching TV when he came upstairs and sat next to me on the couch with his arm around me and started rubbing my back.  The damning question was when he asked me if I wanted to feel something good.  I said yes and I will always regret saying it because it gave him permission.  It finally stopped when the microwave buzzer went off saying it was time for me to leave for school.  He asked me if we were going to get into trouble and I said no as I quickly tried to dress myself.  I gathered my stuff and left the house.  I  could hardly walk when my friend came around the corner to walk with me to school who then took me to my Aunt’s house around the corner.  

The police were called while I watched my six month old cousin playing on the floor.  I watched from the living room window as he was taken away.  I did not see my mother or father afterward, only my grandmother who was asked to take me into the bathroom so she could quickly look at me.  At the the hospital I was alone and screaming as the doctors and nurses examined me.  But what I did not tell anyone was that it was more than him just touching me.  I never told them he raped me.  I still did not tell Ms. M this either.  My mother always said that bad things happen to bad children and what happened was my fault because I intentionally had missed the bus the day before to be with him.  

I had recently got a phone call from the jail that he was let go for good time served and he was nowhere to be found.  About six months after that phone call, he had been arrested again in another state for raping two other girls who had been my age. I never forgave myself for not fully reporting what had happened and allowing that to happen to two other girls.   She hugged me as I could not hold the tears back anymore and I will never forget the conversation that followed.

After she finished, I asked her, “How come you chase me around?”  

“Because I care about you.”  She said this with a soft and caring smile. “You’re a special person and there are things about you I like.  In a way you feel like a daughter to me so I kind of feel responsible for taking care of you.  You remind me a great deal of myself.”

“Like what?” I asked.

“Things like your sense of humor and your smile is so pretty when it’s there.  Also I like your comebacks, they seem to come out at the right time and you have a talent for speaking Spanish.  I want you to know, my door is open anytime that you feel you need to talk and whatever it is no matter how bad, we can deal with it together because you don’t have to fight this world alone.”

“Wait a minute, you mean to tell me that after all the lying and trying to push you away, you want to be my friend?” I said in disbelief.

“Yes, you’re a good kid even though you may not think so.  Besides everyone in life needs a good friend and now you have one,” She said with a big smile.

After this conversation, I still tried to push her away. I did not believe her.  I was afraid to because if my parents believed I am worthless, how could anyone else believe any less?  They are the ones who brought me into this world.  So how could what they say be not true?  I did not want her inside my walls.  I actually felt like I was weak if someone who got through my walls.  I could not get rid of her no matter how hard I tried.  If was not in school; I got a phone call at home.   She figured out I was  being beaten up at school and the verbal torment  because of my red hair, my size, and my last name, the neighborhood kids had labeled me a slut from what happened, it was no secret.  Up until the time I moved out of the neighborhood, the older boys in the who do things and threaten to tell my parents and that it was all my fault and I deserved it.  My parents were not home when I got home from school which made this worse.   Some days off the bus, I had to run home with no less than 10 kids chasing me.  I still recall being hit in the face and slicing my jaw open with a snow shovel.  Even in my new neighborhood, the bullying did not stop.  I could not even use the baseball field behind my house without adult with me otherwise, if I got caught, a beating would ensue by a couple of neighborhood girls.  The bullying and taunting followed me into high school.  So sometimes my only salvation was to ditch school to get away from it, plus being away from being beaten up by my parents was during the day when no one was home.  After this, Ms. M informed me that I was to spend study halls in her classroom.  “Subliminal Spanish” she called it.  It was not until years later that I would find out that she arranged this as a plan to try and hide me to keep me from being bullied and to keep me from ditching school.

Ms. M occasionally passed me riding my bike around the neighborhood as I would get on my bike and disappear for hours if not all day if I could. I didn’t live far from her and there is a beautiful pond near her house and she would stop and talk to me.  It became a Sunday night tradition if I was out riding my bike, I would stop at her house, always around 5 or 6, help her wash dishes from dinner and or playing boggle before she would grade quizzes and watch 60 Minutes at 7p.  She was a member of the [organization] Council and I was a part of the Police Explorers.  So she always saw me at public events working community service.  She also got me into doing projects at school when I didn’t have sports such as [student suicide awareness program], after finally she realized my desire to not be home whatever it took.  Interestingly enough, Ms. M had me work on a teen council with the [organization] for teen substance abuse and appear in a drunken driving video.  Maybe she was aware that was I was drinking as alcohol was in abundance in the house.  It slowed my head down, made the beatings not hurt and it helped stop the urges to cut.

  When there were school dances, I was to go and she always drove me home until I started driving.  Always during these rides home was when the deep conversations took place.  It was also the only time she spoke to me in English so I was either in trouble or she was being extremely serious.  I will call it therapy but it was 20 minutes I could not escape from that red Dodge Stealth with the license plate [plate].  I can also say that there were only five times she ever said my name in English (sort of like when your parents get to your full name type rule).  This is how I truly knew when I was in trouble.    Toward the end of my freshman year, she got me involved with Project [name].  At the end of my freshman year, we went to dinner at [town] just before she left for Mexico to work in the garbage dumps and teach kids.  I had a black mug etched that said, "#1 Spanish teacher" in Spanish.  I was instructed to keep a journal while she was gone and she would talk to me about it when she came back.  In her absence, she did not leave me without being watched and of course I was not aware of that at the time either.  This is how I met Dianne (shares my same birthday is eight years old with long red hair).  Over the summer, Dianne would take me out, throw a softball around, watch movies, and travel to [city] for ice-cream, Dianne adopted me as her little sister.

       When she came back, the start of my sophomore year is when another deep dark secret came out.  A friend found out that I was hurting myself by cutting and punching walls. The bullying was getting so bad I was cutting a lot of classes.  Matter of fact, I should have been expelled because I had stolen a pad of hallway passes from her desk, had saved my old ones she had given me, and learned to forge her signature on them.  I did a good job too because it was awhile before I got caught.   One day I forgot to write excused on it and Mrs. T (my math teacher at the time) called me on the carpet and informed me she would verify whether or not it was with Ms. M.   I got out of class as soon as I could and found Ms. M to tell her what was going on before Mrs. T got to her.  She wasn’t mad at me but very upset and disappointed.  As much as I tried to get away from this woman, to hear these words come out of her mouth and the look in her eyes, made me feel rotten.  She didn’t take any action herself but she and Mrs. T decided my fate.  My punishment was detention with Mrs. T.  My rides home afterward were given by Ms. M  when she was ready to leave from school for the day.  They never told my parents or the school.  Ms. M  caught me ditching Spanish class.  This is the only year she was not my teacher was for Spanish 2.  My Spanish class was during Ms. M’s lunch, so her classroom was empty.  I would hide in there or in the cafeteria during this class.  She finally caught me in the cafeteria because my “friends” ratted me out.  This went on for awhile when Ms. M finally got tired of it and we had a huge argument in the hallway outside the café.  She didn’t understand why I was trying to cut my Spanish class at the time.  “What are you doing? YOU LOVE SPANISH!” - one of the few times she said my name in English.  She would not let me go that day until I finally spilled what was going on.  I explained that I was being tortured in my biology class by bullies and it was carrying over into the Spanish class. I finally revealed how bad it was in my other classes with students going as far as to tell me I smelled like “crotch rot”.  She marched me down to my class and spoke with Mrs. P privately.  I do not know what was said to this day but my problems in my Spanish class stopped.

Also during this year, in homeroom, I got into a fight with another girl.  I was trying to do my homework from the night before when a pair of dirty gym shorts flew onto my head.  After taking it off, this girl was in my face.  Punches started flying as I was trying to defend myself.  Mrs. K (my homeroom teacher) tried to break it up was pushed into glass cabinet cutting her leg.  Later on, after giving a statement to the cops, I was getting my stuff to go home for the day and Ms. M stopped me in the hallway, once again speaking to me in English.  I couldn’t look her in the eye.  I stared at the floor with tears just rolling down my face.  She pulled my chin up and made me look at her.  She said she knew what had happened and that I had to “take my medicine” for getting into the fight.  She said that she understood the situation that I was defending myself and said she was sorry that I was going to miss homecoming.  She said she would call me later that night to see how I was doing.  Without fail around 6pm that evening, she called.  She called a couple of times more during the course of my five day suspension.

        Later that month, I had a t-shirt made for her birthday.  It was airbrushed with it in Spanish on the front against a brick wall that looked like graffiti.  It said in Spanish, “Spanish only the best speak it.”  I had her class that was in there are the time all sign it and I gave it to her on her birthday.  Being that it was full of fluorescent colors, she absolutely loved it.  She usually wore it with her bright orange cargo pants, the same ones she wore on the first day I had met her.  After she had passed away, her sister Mary showed me that she still had that t-shirt in her dresser drawer and that she wore it frequently.

My sophomore year continued the same way except after the fight, not only was I to be in her room during study hall, I now I had to report to her room before homeroom and stay there until homeroom started.  The other problem that was starting to get worse was my headaches.  After suffering so many head traumas from both sports and getting beat up so much including a concussion suffered in second grade, the headaches were out of control.  They appear like a stroke with loss of feeling in the right side and right sided facial droop.  I suffered one of these attacks in Ms. M’s classroom during a study hall.   The class had come to an end and it was time to go to my next class.  I couldn’t get up, couldn’t move, and couldn’t even talk really.  What came out of my mouth was a slurring mess.  Recognizing immediately there was a problem, she called the office and before I knew it, she had picked me up and put me in the wheelchair.  This wound up being a trip to the hospital via ambulance.  This  is when I discovered the headaches I was experiencing were severe migraines that eerily similar to a stroke.

This year I was also introduced to Coach Smith, at the time I was not aware he was also sent by her to keep an eye on me.  He also became my neighbor and many long discussions well into the night on his front porch ensued.  The year also ended with dinner before she left for Mexico with the same instructions that I was to keep a journal.

        My junior year continued with me battling major depression, PTSD, self-injuring and alcoholism.  This time however, I had gone a step further and attempted suicide.  There was no hiding this and I was really hesitant to give her the journal from the summer. When it came time for our talk, we sat right outside her classroom door in the quad which was an absolutely beautiful day.  We talked for a while as I was dancing around everything and anything I could but I eventually broke down.  I wasn’t sleeping and the nightmares were bad.  She understood now why I was sleeping in the mornings when she saw me in class.   What she didn’t understand was why I felt so worthless enough to want to commit suicide.  I did not tell her that was it was because it was what I was being told at home.  She walked me down to the principal’s office and sat with me there until my mother came and got me.  I was ordered to go to therapy by the principal and couldn’t return to school until my first appointment. Ms. M went with me to the therapy appointments and sat in them with me.  After a rough appointment, she drove me home.  During this drive home, I yelled at her, “Why should you care if I end it all?”  She pulled the car over with tears falling down her face, held me by the face made me look at her and said almost angrily, “I care because I love you and I couldn’t stand losing you.”  She revealed that was her biggest fear.  She told me she knows I am in pain and I am struggling to deal with it.  But that her biggest fear is that one day I would be successful.  Her hope was that she could somehow help me work through that pain and learn how to love myself and allow others to love me.

At the therapy appointments, this is when she found out what was going on at home and that I had been drinking for two years.  Things at home were not good and booze was easy to get because my parents were drinking every night after dinner.  According to my parents, things were always my fault and I usually paid dearly for it.  One incident in particular, [child services] got involved as Ms. M had heard about it from a classmate at school and she reported it.  My father got into with me because the dog had gotten into the computer room and destroyed his disks.  I tried to stand up for myself and told him I would not stand for being accused of something I didn’t do.  Unfortunately that was the wrong move, it resulted into being taken by my clothes and thrown into a door headfirst.  I had lost consciousness and don’t remember much I woke up and slightly remember my father standing over me.  This incident was mild in comparison to others.   But Ms. M and I got into a huge fight in front of class following that because I knew she was the one who “turned me in”.  Child services wasn’t what it is today and I wormed my way out of it, out of fear my parents would really hurt me.  Child services never investigated further somehow taking my word.   More cat and mouse games but she wouldn’t go away.  I was no longer cutting but now resorting to just burning myself in the shower because the cuts were harder to hide.  But it didn’t stop Ms. M from being there for me.  By now she had me involved in Project [organization] fundraising events for several organizations.  However, during homecoming, another bully incident.  This time, a gang member who was a freshman, was sitting in our section during the pep rally.  I stood up to cheer and he shoved me from behind and told me to sit my ass down.  I told him to stand up with us and he repeated his statement, stood up and kicked me in the left knee.  Knowing who he was, I got away from him, hobbled as best I could.  I found Mrs. T who ushered me into the locker room and I heard her say to someone, “Find Ms. M for me.”  I found this sort of odd and not understanding why seeing as Ms. M was the senior class advisor and I was only a junior.  It wasn’t long before she came into the locker room as I was punching a locker which I was very quickly told in English to “KNOCK IT OFF!”  My left kneecap was sort of off to the right at this point.  She (all 5’2”of her) picked me up and put me in the wheelchair without breaking a sweat.  It was this moment I knew then I never wanted to really get her mad at me.  She wheeled me to the nurse’s office after everyone cleared the gym.  She knew I was pissed.  I was staring off at the field and actually plotting in my head how I was going to get even.  She took one look at me and said, “You will let this go and let everyone else handle it.  You ARE NOT to get revenge.  Do you understand me?”  Again all in English.  I ended up having surgery on my knee.  She came to visit me at home and make sure I was doing okay on top of the normal phone calls.  I sank deeper into depression and self-destruction during the summer and it continued into my senior year.

        My senior year was difficult for the both of us.  I continued battling my demons.  The problems with [teacher] were escalating for her.  It wasn’t until this point that Ms. M found out the problems I had with [him] my freshman year and that I had filed a complaint against him and how I ended up in her class.  Prior to him being fired, he would attempt to stop me in the hallways especially after the sexual harassment was made public.  I would always a few choice words for him but he didn’t really bother me.  He knew I was associated with the police department, only as an Explorer but still associated.  It was my senior year that I discovered just how watched she had me.  A new teacher had come into the school, one of which I would not give the time of day.  I was back in my hole and very deep this time.  This teacher, Mrs. G kept trying to reach me without success.  If I wasn’t in Ms. M’s  class, I didn’t care.  She was the one I had to put the act on for.  An afternoon after school, Ms. M and I were walking out together and Mrs. G was walking toward us when Ms. M said to her, “Is she doing better in your class?”  Mrs. G said no but that she hadn’t given up on me yet.  I was not happy when I heard this although at this point I should have known better.  At this point now, it was Mrs. G, Mrs. K, and Ms. M all working on me, trying to save me from myself.  I did start seeing a guy who Ms. M did not approve of.  I met him through a mutual friend, he was 21 and I was 17.  Anyone I was ever seeing had to have an interview with her and meet with her approval.  She didn’t approve or disapprove per se but let her concerns be known.  I remember a dance in March, and I was informed we would be riding together because she wanted to talk to me.  The ride home was probably one of the worst car rides ever.  There was a concern at that time I might be pregnant.  She let me have it.  She never thought a high school student was ready to have kids.  But in my case she was deeply concerned with my reckless self-destructive behavior and being emotionally and financially ready to care for a child.  Although upset with me, if it turned out to be the case, she said she would be there for me especially when it came to telling my parents.  Thankfully it never turned out to be the case.  

        The end of my senior year right up to the last week was nothing short of an adventure with her.  The senior picnic in [city] in May was all games, dunk tank, egg toss, etc.  When it came to the egg toss, she marched right up to me and said, “You’re with me!” and dragged me to the tossing line.  Chris wore the egg, what do you expect when I play softball.  She even challenged me in basketball in a game of HORSE.  She lost that too.  Unfortunately, I spent a lot of time in the sun and being a redhead does not equal good things.  The last thing I remember was passing out in the bathroom and someone yelling “GO GET MRS.M!”   I woke up to being in an ice cold shower and fighting to get out of it and being yelled at to, “GET BACK IN THERE AND COOL DOWN!” as Chris was holding me in place.  I was so sunburned, my skin was purple and it was a trip to the hospital for me for heat stroke.  She was shocked when I returned to school the next day.

In May, It was our end of the year awards and I was called down to the floor to sit by the stage.  Now, you weren’t sitting down there unless you were getting an award.  I had no idea what I was being called for.  First, was by Sgt. S of the  Police Department.  I had been awarded a scholarship by the Police Department by recommendation from Chris for my involvement in the police explorers and I was going to go to Community College for Criminal Justice.  I went to turn around to walk off stage when I was told to stay for the next award.  It was the [award] for Community Service.   Also something else I didn’t know anything about.  Apparently by that point, in four years’ time of school, I had put in over 2,000 hours of community service between police explorers, fundraisers for Project [organization] (bake sales, bottle redemption, and formal fairs) my involvement with the organizations.  This was also a recommendation by Chris for this award.  But it came down to my math final exam for me to graduate.  She was responsible for getting me tutors because she found out about that too.  But I will never forget the day I got the phone call from one of my police explorers who witnessed Chris collapse in the guidance school office and telling me they took her out by ambulance.  I didn’t want to believe him.  I went running across the street and told Coach who told me I wasn’t driving to the hospital, he drove.  Upon arrival at the hospital, Mrs. P came out, my 2nd year Spanish teacher.  She came out of the emergency room and said, “When they said someone was here, how did I know it was you?”. She gave me an update that they were running tests and it wasn’t known if she was going to be going home or not.  She gave me a hug and thanked me for coming down and to not worry.  I went home and got ready for work, which was [store] Drug Store at the time like most of the high school kids.  It was the topic of the night at work and I had missed seeing her at [store]’s picking up prescriptions by minutes.  I went to school the following Monday early after being told she would be at school.  She was in her room getting ready for exams.  I gave her the biggest hug ever (not my character back then) and told her, “Don’t you ever do that to me again!”  with a big smile.  Jokingly she said to me, “Don’t worry no seizure is ever going to kill me.  It’s not my time yet.”  I actually told her that I loved her and never wanted to think of something happening to her.  She said again, “Well if it does, it was my time to go, don’t be sad and throw me a party, celebrate life!”  She was there to give us our final exam and went home shortly thereafter to rest for graduation that night.  Our graduation party while celebrated in her spirit, definitely was not the same without her there.  


Part 2 will be published in the next few weeks.  We would appreciate you sharing this and connecting people to help if you know someone who may be struggling.  You can contact us here.