My favourite teacher was defined by her kindness.

The rumour circulated by my friends was that you definitely didn’t want to go into Mrs Penman’s class. Any other class but hers. What is it with little kids? Where do they hear all these stories about cruelty in the classroom? But at seven years of age you tend to take everything at face value. So, imagine my dismay when I first heard the news that after the holidays that’s exactly where I’d be going.

The pep talk from my parents didn’t help much and I found myself on the verge of tears as I took my place in the classroom of death. I was deeply suspicious of the warm welcome Mrs Penman gave me and tried my best not to enjoy the games she was teaching her new class. But in no time at all this amazing lady broke down my defences and became the greatest teacher in the history of the world! Learning became sheer joy. My friends had it completely wrong.

Towards the end of that year we moved to a new area in Melbourne and I was faced with the prospect of changing schools. Mrs Penman requested that my parents come in for a chat. She knew where I was enrolled and was concerned about the class I would be going into. Her recommendation was that I see out the rest of the year in her class before transferring. She was even willing to transport me to and from her school each day, despite the fact that our new address was completely in the opposite direction from where she lived.

Her only motivation was my welfare.

Health and safety concerns would probably mean that a teacher could not offer this today but back in the 1960’s things were different. Though appreciative, my parents chose instead to put me on a public bus for the commute. Again, things were different then!

As I reflect on my primary school years, Mrs Penman stands out as a beacon of kindness. She welcomed me warmly into her class; she made learning fun; she was prepared to go the extra mile for her students. Each was a choice.

Mrs Penman. Great teacher. Significant impact.

Who was your favourite teacher and why?

Photo: Rido81/