I had but two teachers in all of elementary school. I started in second grade when I arrive to the states. That year, my teacher was Ms. Cardenas. Our class was mixed; third graders and second graders. It must’ve been about 30 or more students. Since I was in bilingual, I guess my school had a shortage and we got the short end of the stick, but that’s beside the point. In third grade, I had Ms. Cardenas again. This time, only the 3rdgraders; no more mixing. For the most part, she was the one who taught me English so in part, I feel bad that this essay is not about her.
Now, in fourth and fifth grade I had a repeat teacher as well, Ms. Ruiz. She was something. I remember her for many things, especially her hair. She had bright red hair with as much volume as humanly possible. She’d pair it with a smudge of red lipstick, every single day and on most days, she’d also wear a red blazer. Thinking back, Ms. Ruiz was what we now call a “foodie.” She’d use any excuse for us to have food in class. I remember on multiple occasions she’d have us sign permission slips and bring in three dollars and she’d order Chinese food for the entire class. On other days, closer to the summer she’d again have us sign permission slips and this time bring five dollars and we’d go on a field trip to Baskin Robins to get ice cream. And another time, she used a book we were reading as an excuse to bring us conchas. Somehow, she was always on a diet though. Sometimes we’d come up early after lunch and she’d be eating soup and would share with us the fried wontons because she “couldn’t eat them.” Other times, she’d snack on plain rice cakes in class which she often let us try.
My favorite thing about Ms. Ruiz was all the field trips she’d take us on. As I mentioned earlier, I was in bilingual class. Most of the students in our class had recently arrived from our birth countries and for the most part, we hadn’t done or seen much. Ms. Ruiz made sure to change that for us. I have no idea how she got permission to take us on so many field trips but we would go somewhere different at least once or twice per month in those two years. Every museum in New York City, every aquarium, zoo, botanical garden, the circus, I’ve seen it all; thanks to her. Until this day, I say that I don’t remember ever doing work in elementary school, all I remember was the many trips we took all over the city.
Ms. Ruiz was a bit old at the time from what I can remember. I always wonder where she is now and if she is still teaching. My school is no longer where it used to be and now the new building has many new teachers. I doubt I ever would, but If I bumped into her in the street, I’d be happy. I’d thank her for all the amazing memories she created for me and for sharing her rice cakes. Looking back, I had no idea how lucky I was to have her as a teacher.