I have postponed writing this page because I simply didn’t want it to be true. I wanted to wake up and think that the phone call I received a few weeks ago was just some horrible dream, and yet the days and weeks passed, and I knew that 2016 took some amazing people, one of which was one of the best educators and human beings I knew, Annie MacMillan.
Now Annie Fo Fanny as I loved to call her was a bright spot in my life. She was one of those teachers that spent her entire career with students, at one school, lighting the lives of mostly second graders year after year. She was a solid foundational rock in the community, and in both my personal and professional life, long after we parted ways and I moved on to different schools, different roles, and accepted different challenges. She was the constant support and cheerleader, and never hesitated to “Let me tell something….” about whatever she was thinking, or thought about what you were doing. She was tough, she was loving, she was true, and she made me and everyone she came into contact with a better person.
I was trying to think of how to honor a woman who meant so much to so many, and to somehow encapsulate her essence. I remember when I left Bostonia years ago, I wrote a letter to the staff letting people know what I learned from being there. I pulled out of my files this morning, as it reminded me so much of Annie because many if not all of those lessons somehow came back to her.
So my dear friends, I present a few of things that I have learned from being blessed to know and love the great Annie Mac.
- Be generous with your time and knowledge. I have so many great memories sitting in the “pod” just talking with you, about life, teaching and family. You were always listening with your mind and heart, truly listening because you knew that being truly present was always more important than anything you had to share yourself. I am a better mother, friend, educator, and person because of it.
- Laughing until you can’t stand up is the best therapy to a stressful situation. Everyone needs to laugh and smile when they think of you, because no matter what the road, you took it on with strength, grace and humor. I don’t recall a day I didn’t laugh when I was with you, no matter what the challenge.
- A chocolate drawer brings people together. Enough said.
- Support someone in the decision that is best for them, even if it is difficult for you. I watched you coach admin, teachers, students, friends and family in so many ways with kindness and your no nonsense “let me tell you something…” and we were all better for it.
- Be generous as an educator. Your wealth of materials filled so many classrooms after you left teaching. My daughters for one, who literally grew up in your classroom, eventually becoming a teacher and gaining a second grade classroom of her own. Through your generosity, she has been trusted with the Arthur collection, Junie B. Jones, science and history books, and so many books and supplies that her generation of second graders will now come to know and love because of you and the team. And in those books are the notes, and post-its that show how much you planned, and how much you loved teaching. We should all have careers we love so much. Your work lives on.
- It is important to teach about history. Annie, you will be happy to know you taught me that history is a living, breathing thing, and not just about “dead people.” You got me “on the ship” and your passion for history and social justice lives on in the work I do with students today. Thank you for never giving up on getting me to understand the value of stories, both past and present. You and my dad are having a great laugh over a cup of coffee in heaven at the moment as I try to teach civics in this trying time.
- Build a team in your life. You had such a way of bringing us all together. The talent show tradition being just one example that brought our entire community together, staff, students, and families year after year. It wasn’t just the endless rehearsals, and lists and revisions on that famous yellow pad, but it was the love and passion that brought us all together year after year, and then to an exhausted dinner afterwards. It was that love that I try to bring with me in new ways every where I go. You taught us to find passion, to bring out the best in people, and to create traditions in a digital time when we spend more times with our face in a screen than facing each other.
- Live life out loud. Scream for the Aztecs, yell BUNCO at the top of your lungs, argue passionately for kids, and never leave a room without having let people know you were there.
- You taught me to live in the moment, to take risks, to be silly, and to love unconditionally. I hope to be half the woman when I leave this earth that you were.
- And finally, always have a scrunchie, and when life gets tough, adjust that ponytail and kick ass.
It is not lost on me that we celebrate your life on Dr. Martin Luther King’s Day. You were your own civil rights leader Annie, in so many great ways. I still can’t imagine that you are really gone. I keep expecting you to pop your head in the door, with that big smile and infectious laugh. I love you and miss you so very much my friend. So I will carry you in my heart, that forever vision of you walking down the hall, ponytail swinging, yelling out for all to hear, “Good morning friend! Let me tell you…”