By Anna Skinner
Westfield Washington Schools Supt. Dr. Sherry Grate still remembers her favorite teacher, even after all the teachers she had following elementary school and fellow staff during her career.
Virginia Martin taught Grate’s third-grade class, and Grate still reminisces about her and that class.
“It was just such a memorable year,” Grate said. “It wasn’t just one thing she did at one time during the year, but just who she was as a person and as a teacher throughout the whole year. Mrs. Martin had an impact on many more students, many more people than just me.”
What Grate didn’t know was that the 92-year-old Martin still lived in her hometown of Dana, Ind., and that she read an article about Grate’s biography. Included in her biography, Grate mentioned Mrs. Martin as her favorite teacher.
Martin received Grate’s contact information from her family members and reached out.
“Someone had shared with her that she was my favorite teacher, and she knew I would be home that weekend and asked if I had time to stop by because she would love to see me,” Grate said.
Grate traveled to Dana and into the home of her favorite teacher, who remarkably still lived alone.
“She just had so much to share with me, and when it was time for me to go, she didn’t want me to leave,” Grate said. “She got out a binder of separate pictures from every class she ever taught, and we went through those. That was an amazing visit; she is just an amazing woman.
“Being an educator is about building relationships with students and engaging them in meaningful work,” Grate added. “In her class, we did a lot of projects. It was about really making the work meaningful.”