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Dear Mrs. Aschbrenner

By Chelsea Meyer
Dear Mrs. Aschbrenner

Dear Mrs. Aschbrenner,
Someone once said to me, “No one really remembers much from second grade.”
For me, that is a ridiculous statement. That was my golden year in elementary school! I remember so much from second grade. I remember writing a story about a macaw and illustrating it. I remember writing my own poetry and then reciting it to an audience at a local bookstore. I remember coloring in pie charts to indicate how many books we’d read in each genre. We played math games with cards that I can still picture. We made self portraits on squares of cloth that were then sewn into a quilt, which was auctioned to the highest bidder at a school fundraiser. I remember you reading aloud Where the Red Fern Grows.
There were scented markers, full bookshelves, Number Munchers, hot/cold lunch charts, bring-your-pet-to-school days, a Thanksgiving play in which my best friend Anne played the turkey and the rest of the class dressed up as grandmas and grandpas.
At the forefront of all these memories is gathering on the carpet with the other second graders, you in the chair, strumming away on your guitar and singing. I remember the songs: “Macaroni and Cheese,” “Puff the Magic Dragon,” “Chicken Lips and Lizard Hips,” “Everything Grows”...
In second grade, you taught us what the word “imagination” meant. I learned to love to read. I developed a passion for writing. I learned to actually do things with numbers. I figured out that Europe was in fact a place, not a breakfast condiment, because before you opened my eyes to this reality what automatically came to mind was “syrup.” That was the year I learned to be proud of my work and myself. I can’t quantify how much of my personality today is reflected in what I experienced in second grade.
When I became an elementary school teacher, it was for a variety of reasons, but driving my decision was my own powerful experience in your classroom. And when I took a second-grade teaching position, all I could think was, “How can I make these kids’ experience as magical as Mrs. Aschbrenner made mine?” I attempted to replicate for my students many aspects of your approach. Regardless of the ebb and flow of new modes of instruction, new philosophies, new methods of assessment, some experiences are just universal.
I always wanted to find you and tell you these things. I looked for you on Facebook, Google, and a few other websites through the city of Colorado Springs, where I grew up, but was unsuccessful in my search... until this year.
While visiting my parents in the U.S. over Christmas, I was shopping for school supplies in Office Depot. I heard someone in the next aisle over, talking with an employee. After over 20 years, I still recognized your voice. As if I had just encountered a celebrity, my heart started racing and I tried to concoct things that I could say that wouldn’t make me sound lame or like a stalker. I put on my most casual, normal face and pretended to be interested in the same desk calendars that you were looking at.
You remembered me! Right away you knew my name and remembered my younger brother too. The Office Depot staff must have been slightly annoyed that we stood in the store for an hour catching up (I don’t recall if either of us ended up actually buying anything).
I professed that one of my biggest regrets was not learning how to play the guitar. I always wanted to incorporate the memorable group singing sessions into my own classes. To my great delight, it so happened that you had a CD of 28 personally recorded songs used in your many years of teaching accompanied by songbook with lyrics. Chants of, “Would you like some macaroni and cheese? Yes please!” can be now heard coming from my classroom in the afternoons.
I feel so lucky that I had the chance to thank you in person. But I also wanted to express my gratitude in writing. One of the most wonderful things in my career as an educator thus far has been to watch the joy that your song collection has brought to my students—the same joy that it brought me back in second grade.
Thank you, Mrs. Aschbrenner, for creating an experience that I absolutely do remember. Know that a little piece of you has traveled to Sudan... and will spread wherever else in the world I end up.
Most Sincerely,
Chelsea Meyer
(2nd Grade Class of 1993–94)
Chelsea Meyer teaches second grade at Khartoum American School in Sudan.

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