Today I’ve witnessed the saddest most beautiful occurrence in my life.
As I walk into the local pizza shop with a friend of mine and begin to order our food, in walks the beloved Mrs.Pollack, Bellport High School’s most famously known substitute teacher. Not only did she hold that title but also held the title of the longest working substitute at the time. She instantly recognizes me and her once bleak face she had while entering the pizza shop quickly becomes joyful and pleasant, exactly how me and others have always thought of her to look like. I receive my food and sit down at a table as I wait for my friend to finish his seemingly long order. Before I even had the chance to take one bite of my first slice of pizza, Mrs.Pollack approaches me once again and asks, “Do you mind if I sit here?” as she’s slowly already taking a seat on the bench across from me.
She begins the conversation by stating, ” I have one question? Do you see a lot of new young faces when it comes to teachers in Bellport?” I reply “Yes” and tell her that I’ve noticed that this year although only being in school for about seven weeks now. Her once joyful face immediately deflates and is replaced with a face full of gloom and discontent. She begins stating that the school has obviously “laid her off” and many other aged teachers had chosen to retire due to the school’s desire for new, young teachers. Mrs. Pollack told me that she received the same letter she has been receiving for the past 50 some-odd years stating that she was welcomed back to the South Country School District to work once again as a substitute teacher. Blind to the fact that in the coming weeks she would receive yet another letter that is not so welcoming. Mrs. Pollack tells me that the second letter she receives states that, “The South Country School District thanks you for all your time you have committed to working as a substitute teacher and must regret to tell you that your services will no longer be needed to us.” She tells me she is instantly devastated. Her eyes begin to water as she tells me her world was crushed with the opening of that second letter. For being able to hear of such a catalyst event to occur in a mind full of repetition, familiarity, and joy for over the past 50 years, I could obviously see what the reading of that second letter did to her spirit. She goes on to express to me how she went to visit our new superintendent, principle of the last four years, and our current principle of this year to ask why this was done to her. The response she receives from our previous principle is that, “It was not his decision.” Mrs. Pollack then converses with our new superintendent, which was previously a long time co worker of hers and he states that he is, “Sorry and will see what he can do.” Lastly she goes to meet our new principle of the 2010-2011 school year. He does not recognize her. Mrs. Pollack begins to introduce herself and kindly asks what can be done in regards to her unfortunate situation. He simply responds with, ” Alright I will put you on a list but I will have to see if the Board of Education will approve you.” She tells me that these words struck her at the heart.
She asks me if all her time that was put into that job worth nothing? All those years full of countless memories? She says, “Maybe if I would have told the new principle that I was elected the most popular teacher last year then maybe he would of at least seemed more concerned. Or that during the 2008-2009 graduation ceremony the Senior Class began chanting her name, Mrs. Pollack! Mrs. Pollack! Mrs. Pollack!” She tells me that when she received news that she was the first substitute teacher ever to be voted as “Best Teacher” last year she began to cry tears of joy. And that as the senior class of 2009 were chanting her own name in disbelief, she nearly fell out of her chair with enjoyment and glee. Through all the years of Mrs. Pollack working here she has always been known for her witty jokes, eccentric attitude, humorous story telling, and simply put the students favorite substitute. Unlike many of the new younger teachers occupied in our school, she was respected and well liked. Her position working in the South Country School District made history. Board of Education members had once previously been a student of Mrs. Pollack and now they were just ready to relieve her of her duties in order to save some money and hire new teachers. I found this disgusting. As I sit there and look at my empty plate and listen to the silence due to her finishing her grim monologue, I become overwhelmed with a feeling of sadness and regret. I stare at her and the look in her face is a sight I will never forget. She begins again by saying that she wishes she was invited to the Board of Education meetings how she use to be or at least someone would tell her when they were. Coincidentally my government teacher let my class know today that there would be a Board of Education meeting in our town tomorrow night at 7:00 PM and suggested us to go. I tell her of this. Her face slowly begins to grin once again saying, “I’ll think I’ll go to that tomorrow.”
As the aged fragile Mrs. Pollack begins to leave she tells me one last thing. She says, ” I now believe I was meant to see you tonight. You are what I’ve been looking for all this time and what I’ve been missing inside of me. I’m very glad we ran into each other tonight Andrew. Goodbye.” And exits into the dark of the parking lot outside of the pizza shop. I drive home in silence. I think about what I had just experienced and wondered, “why me?” and what the odds were of me seeing her at that exact time. For the first time in my life I had actually felt as if it were my sole duty to at least try and do something about a situation like this. I reach a state of peace and astonishment and begin to think, ” I think I’ll go to that Board meeting tomorrow as well…”