Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Teacher Remembered

Yesterday, Anita Painter passed away. Mrs. Painter was my Humanities teacher and one of my three favorite teachers, all from Corona Del Mar High School in Newport Beach.

It saddens me to think she’s gone. She was the perfect combination of a kind, yet tough teacher. I found out through Facebook where a classmate of mine wrote, “She enlightened thousands of students during her teaching career and she will be missed.” Yes, she will.

Mrs. Painter expanded my world through history, the arts, philosophy and geography. She expected much of her students and attained it through encouragement and compassion. The final exam in her class was no mere two hour pen and paper exam. No, no, that was the easy half. She expected us to bring to life all she had taught us. For my final, my friend Katrina and I researched and created a 16th century Florentine dinner. We created a menu based on foods of the day. We cooked the entire meal as authentically as possible in Katrina’s mom’s kitchen.

We invited our parents to the meal with Dr. and Mrs. Painter. Once seated our teacher directed conversation to her two students. We spoke only of present day issues in 16th c. Florence; Da Medici’s, Michelangelo, Raphael, irrigation, voting procedures. She graded us through our conversation.

Each summer Mrs. Painter took some of her students on an educational trip through Europe. She convinced me to go.

As we drove on the bus to our first stop, Dachau, the tour guide informed us the road on which we were traveling had been paved with ashes from the concentration camp. Tears fell down my face as we drove along the German countryside.

Then we went to Italy where I stood motionless in front of Raphael’s School of Athens, the painting I had studied and examined and learned to love through Mrs. Painter’s class. The Botticellis, lunch on the Seine, hiking a glacier in Switzerland, there’s so much more, but for now, I’m content to know that even in retirement, Mrs. Painter continued her love of Humanities through community service to the Arts, education foundations and staying in touch with her former students.

Enlightened. I can't think of a better word to describe her.