One of my oldest and dearest friends throughout much of junior high and high school was Dr. Alan Winner, who recently retired after a successful career as a practicing dentist.

Alan’s younger sister, Carol, became, for me, like the baby sister I never had and was, at times, as annoying as any sister I could have ever imagined.

Carol, like me, graduated from Ohio State and became an educator both in Chicago and then near her home outside Portland, Oregon.

Carol, who is now retired from teaching, has been substitute teaching like many former teachers — especially those who genuinely miss the classroom.

Toward the end of this school year, Carol had accepted an assignment to teach a fifth grade class at a school not far from her home.

The lesson for that day involved creative writing and tasked the students with writing a personal story about some experience they had.

Like most seasoned teachers, Carol was monitoring the class as students were tackling their assignment. It wasn’t long before she noticed Miley, just staring with that “I’m stuck” look on her face.

Miley was simply unable to come up with a topic she deemed suitable. So, Carol moved a chair next to the young girl and shared a story of her own hoping it might be a blueprint for Miley’s own narrative.

Carol said that when she was growing up her family lived in a two-bedroom duplex with she and her older brother Alan sharing one of the bedrooms. That small distance between their beds became like an ocean separating two sea-bound pirate ships and their room became a happy, magical kingdom for the two youngsters.

But as Carol and Alan grew older, their parents realized they each needed a room of their own and purchased a comfortable three-bedroom home some distance away.

Carol explained to Miley that she and her brother were upset about moving but her parents did what parents often do to help children cope with change — they bribed them. The promise was a new puppy.

Both the brother and sister couldn’t have been more excited even if their mother was proportionally less so. To put it mildly, Carol’s mother insisted that Daisy, their new Beagle puppy, be “mess-free” and housebroken ASAP.

For Alan and Carol, Daisy was a dream come true but then their mother also insisted Daisy be spayed as quickly as possible.

It so happened that the family had a veterinarian friend who probably should have known Daisy was too young for the surgery, but Mrs. Winner insisted.

Soon one afternoon after school Carol entered her unusually quiet home and shouted “Hello! Anybody home?” Alan quickly replied, “Down here.”

Both he and his mother were trying unsuccessfully to coax Daisy out of her bed. Then Carol, somewhat emotionally, told Miley that she saw the ailing Beagle struggling to get up to greet her with a usual wet lick to her face.

“I began to cry,” Carol said, especially when her mother said Daisy hadn’t even tried to get up until she heard Carol’s voice.

Sadly, a few days later, Daisy died.

Touched by her substitute teacher’s story, Miley immediately picked up her pen and said confidently “I have a dog. I know just what I’ll write about.”

It’s like I’ve always said, all teachers teach. The best teachers also inspire.

 Mike Fitsko is a retired principal and longtime columnist from New Braunfels.

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