Us kids with Mom on her graduation day.
I skipped a Teacher Appreciation Week blog. I wanted to save my mother’s story for today.
Roxana Menconi, after 25 years of service as an elementary school educator, has officially retired!
It’s no secret that I have endless admiration for my mother.
Among adults, she’s rather intimidating. She’s six feet tall, intensely private, and has a stoic disposition. She’s direct in her communications — a real straight shooter. And she rarely makes jokes or purposely tries to charm others.
So, of course, she’s naturally charming in an adorable way.
With children, however, her true personality is exposed.
She’s never gushy or belittling and she doesn’t baby talk (even with actual babies). Instead, she speaks to children like a normal human being. She expertly explains complex concepts in concrete terms so they immediately understand.
She makes kids feel smart. And safe.
Recently, she was ill and I helped her make preparations for her substitute. She didn’t consult notes or a laptop but was able to explain to me, line by line, where to find files, how to edit documents, and where to send her lesson plans.
I was amazed.
“What do you expect? She’s a master educator,” my brother said when I described the scene.
He’s right. But she had to work like a dog to become one.
After ten years as a housewife, my parents divorced. So she returned to school and earned a Master’s Degree in Education.
Those first few years as a teacher were pretty rough.
She woke up early each day to prepare five sack lunches. Then she dragged her reluctant kids out of bed, fed us breakfast, got us dressed, and rushed us to school…sometimes barely making the bell. Her work day was spent motivating 30+ children to stay curious, to want to read, to enjoy math, and to keep thinking.
After the school day was over, she herded her own kids home, zoomed around to soccer practice and piano lessons, then cooked a home-made dinner, washed the dishes, and put us to bed.
Then, she’d stay up until 3 a.m. grading papers and writing her lesson plans.
Oh, did I mention she was 40 years old when she started this career?
That was my mother’s life. For years on end.
To this day, strangers approach me, excited, “Are you Roxana Menconi’s daughter?”
“She was my teacher! How is she? Tell her I say hi!”
I always relay the message.
I want her to know that it was all worth it.
Her kids remember her.
Congratulations, Mom. I’m really, really proud to be one of your many kids.
Ms. Menconi on school picture day, 2012.