An English Teacher That Inspires

Sara Beale

Mrs. Geckle is someone who can be superbly classified as a beautiful paradox. She is like night and day. So what exactly does the mind of someone in such a complex profession look like?

If you want the truth, I was honestly pretty indifferent when it came to the answer of that question, although slightly rhetorical it may be. When I was told to interview a teacher for a class I wasn’t even fully invested in, it just kind of seemed like another grade in the grade book to me. I never wanted to be the student that reached beyond the boundaries of journalism and grasped a story by the wheel of its so-called multiplex aptitudes, but this interview caused me to look at things a little differently.

Questions in hand, I made my way down the crowded hallway of Overlea High School. I met Mrs. Geckle in the library where she sat wearing her usual attire consisting of an almost tomboyish casual look. She seemed enthusiastic about beginning her interview and stressed how she was eager to read the finished product. At the sound of this I gave a modest smile and assured her she’d be the first to check it out. That’s when the interview began and the story of Mrs. Geckle appeared.

“In my town growing up one of three things happened. You either ended up in jail, pregnant, or dead before you graduated high school,” she began.

The woman we all know as a strong-willed English teacher wasn’t always where she was. “I went to a challenging school and I grew up in a challenging neighborhood”.

She is referring to Camden, New Jersey, a town infamous for murder and crime. In fact, it’s so bad that you have a 1 in 39 chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime there. In an article published by Neighborhood Scouts called “Neighborhood Scout’s Most Dangerous Cities – 2015,” it ranked  number one and earned the title of “The Most Dangerous City in America”.

“I buried more people by the age of 17 then most should ever have to in their entire life,” she explained. Mrs. Geckle had definitely witnessed her fair share of misfortunes.

Unfortunately her childhood was far from easy, and as a young girl she had to grow up faster than others might. “I grew up in a single parent home, so I had to take care of my sister a lot and look out for her.” Her mother had passed away when she was young, so she was raised by her father who played a huge inspirational role in her life.

“You know how most parents read to their kids? My dad read me the classics,” she said with a bright smile. Mrs. Geckle detailed the nights she spent reading novels with her father before bed. “He read me Moby Dick by Herman Melville. He read me Catch 22, Great Gatsby. He didn’t just read me the kids books, he read me the classics because he wanted to read to me something that he would enjoy too, and it just made me love literature.”

A good person in a bad situation. Growing up she didn’t have things easy, but going down that broken road led her to her calling in life and inspired her to be the best she could be. She knew from a very young age what she wanted to do, and that was to teach. “In my kindergarten yearbook it says ‘What do you want to be when you grow up’ and I said teacher… I love being able to see a kid that doesn’t believe in them self finally believe that they can do it.”

She loved looking out for people so much that she decided to make it her career.

Even her friends see her kind heart. When I asked Mrs. Mintzes, a friend and colleague of Mrs. Geckle, she only confirmed my beliefs: “She’s just a really loyal person. Her friendship doesn’t come easy, but once you earn it she would do anything for you. She’s real.”

Most people see her as a simple English teacher, but like most people, Mrs. Geckle has a story, and I believe hers is one to be told. So the question was never about the mind of a teacher. It was about the mind of a person. A person with great perseverance that overcame so much to be something in life.

With every step she took, every demon she had to overcome, and every classic novel shared with her dad she got closer to reaching her goals, and she let nothing stand in her way.  As William Shakespeare once said, “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves.”