When I was a child I absolutely loved school. I loved to read and my parents stressed the importance of education from an early age. But one of the other reasons I loved school so much was because of my 5th grade Social Studies/Science teacher, Dr. Adele D. Allen.
Most considered her mean and tough – but she just wanted us to learn. I know I definitely learned in her class. She encouraged me when I did well and still encouraged me even when I might not have done so well, letting me know that she expected more from me. She was consistent, kind, concerned and knowledgeable -- and I thought she was special.
I guess she also saw something special in me, too. After she left teaching at my school when I entered 6th grade, we kept in touch. She took me to the circus, as well as my first Broadway show as a child. A classically-trained musician and singer, she gave me piano lessons. When I gave my valedictory speech at my 8th grade graduation, she was in the audience. When it came time to pick what high school and college I should attend, she offered guidance. When I graduated from college, she was at the ceremony with my family. Any career move I make she lends her support, offering to serve as a reference if potential employers need to call.
Miss Allen is a Renaissance woman – she’s served as an academic and music teacher, has run for government positions, has attended medical school, is well traveled and well connected. But more than that, through Miss Allen I learned first-hand the power of having a mentor. She has inspired me greatly and even though over the years we haven’t seen each other very much, her presence is still profound in my life. She inspires me to become a mentor. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without her -- and I would like to have that same positive, life-long effect on a young person.
Miss Allen has always been a “special sister” to me and our relationship has evolved over the past 30 years. We now talk about boyfriends, having children and finances. When I go home to New York, I am now able to return the favor and treat her to dinner and a Broadway show!
To this very day I can’t call Miss Allen by her first name, Adele, even though she has constantly insisted that I do so -- she’s basically given up now on me changing. She will always be Miss Allen to me, whether I am 9 years old or 90 years old.
My mom will ask me from time to time, “So have you heard from Miss Allen? Do you still talk to her?” I always answer her with a resounding, “Of course I do. I’ll never forget about Miss Allen.