Giant Steps with The Count of Monte Cristo

I love Reading.

The joy of reading is a task that is often celebrated and uplifted. I wish that I could come up with a better opening for this blog post. I am sure that others are more eloquent than I could ever aspire to do so. It just comes to do that for me in one sentence: I love Reading.

Remind’s #teachsmall campaign has compelled me to reflect upon those seemingly small moments in my past which have impacted me in a significant way.

The love for books and the written word is due in part to my parents. My mother used to read aloud as a survival tactic for me since I was never one to take naps as a toddler. She provided the ticket for me into larger worlds that included adventures with The Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown and Danny Dunn. (I may be dating myself with these references but these fellows were my comrades and I was their willing sidekick.) Dad used to read aloud verses from the The Golden Book Children’s Illustrated Bible and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I would marvel at his resonating deep voice and those words would come alive for me.

We have sparks along the way beyond our parents and families which also serve as giant steps along the journey. I call these sparks: Teachers.

For whatever reason, I was always placed in a lower reading group in elementary school. I never understood why, but I did know that some of my friends just got to read the cooler books. I remember being dejected in 3rd Grade when I was assigned to read The Enormous Egg and my friends had the opportunity to read Ramona the Pest. My book seemed to pale in comparison to the misadventures of a little girl named the Pest. I wanted in that world and I remember “borrowing” a copy from a friend. Reading the book gave me no trouble and I instantly fell in love with the Quimby Family.

Eventually, my path fell upon the classics like Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe and  The Three Musketeers. Those kind of books really fueled my wanderlust. There was nobody cooler than Edmond Dantes, the Count of Monte Cristo. He was man of mystery and intrigue with the divine forces of truth on his side. I remember staying up late reading that large tome in 5th Grade. I wanted to be the Fourth Musketeer. My dreams knew no limits or boundaries.

Early Fall 1980:

I am walking into St.Leo’s Catholic School during the morning carrying my school books and my copy of  “The Count of Monte Cristo.” I have a nappy Afro, buckteeth and I don’t fit in anywhere. I am the only person of color in my class. Light-skinned and out-of-place in the South. I like The Beatles when I am not supposed to do so. I want to be bionic like the Six Million Dollar Man. I am wondering if Darth Vader is really Luke Skywalker’s father. 

Someone trips me and I drop all of my books in front of everyone. Snickers pass me by. I begin to gather my belongings and reach for my books.

Mrs. McMonagle, my 5th Grade Teacher, stoops down to help me and picks up my copy of “The Count of Monte Cristo.” She studies it carefully and then looks at me. She simply asked me if the book was mine. I nodded the affirmative quickly because I was scared and embarrassed. Mrs. McMonagle was a five foot bundle of intimidation and energy from Great Britain. 

Later that morning, I was told by Mrs. McMonagle to sit in with the Blue Reading Group. This was the advanced the group. 

This small act had such a tremendous impact on me in ways that still resonate today. I will be eternally grateful to Mrs. McMonagle for her seemingly small act of belief which ignited me on path towards more inspiration and an eventual career in Education. The confidence she instilled in me propelled me to have the courage to be The Count of Monte Cristo for Halloween.

Simply put, Mrs. McMonagle was the first teacher to believe in me. One time she was required to take an ethnicity census for our class. She asked if there were any minorities in the classroom. I sheepishly raised my hand. We both realized that I was the only one to do so. The class grew awkwardly quiet. Without missing a beat, Mrs. McMonagle stated that she was also a minority being from England and wrote her name down, too.

We don’t know the impact we have on each other. Small moments of inspiration transpire everyday in the schoolhouse. Somewhere a teacher is changing the world for a student. The impact is infinite.

I still love Reading.

Thank you, Mrs. McMonagle.

Thanks to all Noble Educators everywhere making a difference for our kids.



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