When I walked into her classroom on the first day of 4th grade, I was immediately drawn to her. She was Hispanic like me. My father had been encouraging me to do well in school and aspire to college one day, but I had not really thought of my future at that age. I dreamt of being a ballerina or a cowgirl, but here was a real life Hispana and she was a teacher.
I always liked school. Scratch that, I always liked to learn. Sometimes I knew that I would have to do more on my own than the teacher could teach me; sometimes I knew I would have to stay on my toes to keep up with the class. Mrs. Galindo was one of those teachers.
She pushed us all to do better, learn more, ask questions. She would call us, one by one, to her desk during silent reading time to counsel us on our grades. I beamed when she praised me for my work and it encouraged me to work harder.
On occasion, she caught me passing notes, whispering to my girlfriends, and winking at boys. She would gently remind me to wait until lunch time or recess to speak with my friends. She said it was disrespectful to talk in class. A lady never chases boys, she said. She lets them chase her.
I tried my best to be a lady and a good student, but sometimes I reverted to my old self.
On the last day of school, she gave each one of us a Holy Card with a personal note on the back. Mine said she loved me as much as she loved her one and only daughter Linda. She lined us up and shook hands with each one when it came time to say goodbye, but she hugged me to her and I sobbed.
I don’t recall the name of my fifth grade teacher. She was forgettable, so was the year except for my friends and seeing Mrs. Galindo on the playground or at lunch time. There was always a huge smile and hug waiting for me.
I dreaded the start of the next school year. My brother was a year ahead of me and had told me horror stories about the sixth grade. I walked into the classroom surprised to find it decorated with cheerful posters and maps and book stations everywhere. Maybe my brother had exaggerated.
Then Mrs. Galindo walked into the classroom with her angelic smile and twinkly eyes.
Now don’t think for a minute, ladies and gentlemen, that we will repeat what we learned in the fourth grade. Oh no, she said. I have been studying and preparing all summer to teach you sixth grade material and keep you on your toes. It will not be easy.
We all gave a cheer. She winked at me.
* * * * *
The last time I saw her she was shopping at a Wal-Mart with her daughter. I was in my forties, married, with kids the age she once taught. She recognized me immediately. A few years later I read her obituary in the paper. I cut it out and hugged it to me.
God sends us angels in many forms.