Remembering a beloved teacher and the lessons from kindergarten

A decade ago, I wrote a fun short story for my editors about the simplicity of kindergarten. A reminder to use that simplicity to guide us through all the challenges in our lives. And further guide us to our successes.

The muse for this story came from my kindergarten teacher from Webster School in Gary, Indiana in 1974. Her name is Betty Jane Cervantes. She was the dynamic educator who sparked my exuberance for learning.

She passed away recently. This great-grandmother had been a dedicated teacher in the Gary Schools for 38 years.

I’ve chosen to pay my respects in my own kind of way. The wonderful legacy of Betty Jane’s loving, inspirational, and creative influence continues through me and all of the people whom I touch with my words.

Each day I am reminded to keep it kindergarten. And each day I will remember Mrs. Cervantes. And smile.

Keep it kindergarten

“All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” is a book written by Robert Fulgham. It’s a read about simplicity. We expect the world to be complicated. Ergo. It’s complicated. For a healthy body and life, adhere to these basic uncomplicated tenets presented in Mr. Fulgham’s opus.

Goldfish and white mice and hamsters all die. That’s quite a burden to throw at a 5-year-old kid. It needs to be addressed though. This gives those moppets the time to prepare for Grandma’s inevitable passing. It also gets those curious tykes asking why some lucky squares live longer than others.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. That’s a positively profound morsel of advice. Now let’s wave a wand and modify those good old fashioned Chips Ahoy into low fat oatmeal raisin cookies. Then reintroduce that dairy product as a skim milk variety. Thank you sir. May I have another?

Take a nap every afternoon. A brilliant concept. Don’t work through the afternoon break or engage in gutter gossip with the colleagues. Find a quiet office space. Curl up for a 15-minute siesta. It’ll be dollops better than that cigarette, a giant soda, or a proliferation of vicious canards about the folks in the accounting department.

Wash your hands before you eat. Germs are omnipresent. Seeking opportunities to invade and infect you. There are many places you go. Many things you touch. Laden with bad guys. Don’t go “Mommie Dearest” on us. Just lather up the Lifebuoy. Wash away those microbial monsters before eating.

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Put things back where you find them. If you have a health club membership then you know the importance of this lodestar. The conspicuous signs adorning the fitness room walls should provide ample reinforcement for those prone to laziness. Put dumbbells back on the rack when you complete exercises. Everyone achieves more when we work together. Let’s keep an organized environment.

Live a balanced life. Author Fulgham reminds us to learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. He reminds us that life is an exquisite tapestry of A to Z and 1 to 10. Mix the alphas with the numerics. Variety is the spice of life for salubrity.

When you go out in the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. Find a significant other. Life is easier when you have two instead of one. Stacy Q had it all right in her one hit wonder song lyrics from yesteryear. “Two of hearts. Two hearts that beat as one. I need you. I need you.”

But don’t despair if you’re without a partner. Friends are family you choose. They’re just as important to have. Select them wisely and stick together like that “St. Elmo’s Fire” band of buddies.

Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Say sorry when you hurt somebody. Flush. Clean up your mess. Lots to remember. Thank golly goodness. It’s easy to remember. Break life down into bits of terrific advice you acquired from your kindergarten year. It’s best to focus on running a marathon … one mile at a time.

Keep it simple in life. Your overall health and successes will reflect those efforts. I really do owe a red Radio Flyer wagon full of gratitude to that morning class at Webster Elementary. You taught me well Mrs. Cervantes.

Ron Blake is a longtime Northwest Indiana resident and former Hobart City Councilman now living in Phoenix, Arizona.

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