Mrs. Loyce Deloney was my third grade teacher. With every fiber of my being, I adored her. Her hair was silky white with soft waves that gleamed under the industrial schoolhouse lights in Room 15 on the 3rd grade wing of Libby Elementary. She spoke in a soft, soprano voice and was generous with loving smiles. As she walked up and down the rows of desks checking to see if we had all "carried the ones," a cloud of Heaven Scent was left in her wake. She wore silky shirtwaist dresses and pointy-toed high heels. On chilly days a simple cardigan hung from her shoulders. As our matriarch, she sat at the head of our lunch table and made sure that our napkins were in our laps. After lunch when the big buzz fans droned like helicopters landing in our classroom, she traded her heels for golden Genie house slippers that revealed the darkened heels of her nylons. Those slippers represented the cosiness and peace that we felt as members of the Libby Elementary Deloney family.
Mrs. Deloney read to us every day after lunch. As we rested our heads on our desks, she became Laura Ingalls Wilder telling the adventures of her life in the Big Woods. Our mouths watered for pulled taffy and smoked ham. We dreamed of dancing in the firelight as twinkly-eyed Pa played jigs on his fiddle. In great detail, Mrs. Deloney drew pictures of butter churns and plows on the blackboard in white chalk to help us understand the world of the Wilders. At the end of a chapter, she would close the book only to hear us quietly protest, "Awwwwww!" We wanted more of Laura's stories. We wanted more of our teacher's soothing voice. "Tomorrow! Tomorrow!" she would always promise. Turning to page 82 in our geography books, we would settle down for an afternoon nap as one of our fellow students began to read orally from where we had left off the day before, "The main crops of Tennessee are corn, cotton, soybeans and tobacco..."
Mrs. Deloney made learning fun. In November, we made Indian headbands from brown construction paper. Then, we carefully traced feathers on orange, red, green and yellow paper which we meticulously cut out with our safety scissors - our tongues jutting just out of our mouths as we concentrated on scoring each feather's edges. These feathers were stored in our desks for special occasions like 100's on spelling tests or multiplication table tests. With pride, we pasted each earned feather onto our headbands. Once the headbands were filled, she let us ceremoniously add a strip of brown construction paper that trailed down the back of the band creating a chief's headdress. Adding that strip of construction paper was tantamount to gaining membership into an elite educational society filled with gifted spellers and multiplication table savants.
Over the years, I have amassed two collections that pay homage to my beloved Mrs. Deloney: vintage rhinestone American flag and Christmas tree pins. These pins take me back to the love and safety of my third grade classroom. To the draped cardigan sweaters adorned with seasonal rhinestone pins. To the place of love and grace and Loyce Deloney.
Mrs. Deloney, it's me, Carolyn Kinzbach. Remember me? My mom taught in the classroom 2 doors down. When I grew up, I became a teacher, Mrs. Deloney. I had my heart set on teaching 3rd grade because it was my favorite. Because of you. I never taught third grade. But, I always read to my students after lunch. Because of you.
Thank you, and, I love you, Loyce Deloney.
A note to Janie Bug in the Woods: