Today was the day all students and teachers eagerly wait for beginning in about…October. It was the last day of school before Christmas break. The morning flew by with making Christmas cards for parents, a science test, math test, and band. The students were so excited to come in from recess and prepare for the Christmas party. I told them I would open their presents before the party, and it was so fun to have them sit around as I opened each gift. They put so much thought and love into each one. They really personalized them to me and my love for the little things—ducks, bags, apple cinnamon tea, etc.  One student got me a pretty pen and said, “I know you love to write and if you could, you’d write for hours a day.” True statement. It was then when I realized, “Wow. It has been awhile.” I also looked at my students and remembered how much they pick up on those little things that I say.

The Christmas party was a whirlwind of fun, and as they walked out the door, it was hard to believe the semester had already come and gone. As I wrote numbers on the whiteboard for the last time of 2016, I noticed an email pop up on my phone. Usually I don’t read them during dismissal, but the subject line, “Pray for Lifegate” grabbed my attention. I went back into multi-task mode: listening, writing, and reading.

My fifth grade science teacher, Miss Hipnar, had passed away last evening. My heart instantly hurt and tears welled up as I held back from running out of the room. I had never had a teacher die before. I had just written her a note the other day, and I knew there was a chance she may never see it. She was a special teacher to me, even though I was not in her homeroom class. Yes she was my science teacher like many other students, but she impacted me more than I realized during fifth grade and again after college. It was the little things she said and did.

Science has always and may always scare me a bit. I remember my first late assignment in science class, and the tears and embarrassment I felt that day realizing I had completely forgotten to do the work. I remember how “stern” she seemed at first with her, “You have to learn this lesson. You aren’t perfect. It’s ok.” Ouch. That one was hard to swallow for me at age ten, but so true. She followed it up with, “Jesus is the only perfect one. He loves you.” She left it at that, and told me I could go get a kleenex. From that eye-opening moment, I admired her in a new way. She was so humble and wise. She absolutely loved Jesus and that drew me to her each day. She spoke simple truths that weren’t always easy to hear, but needed to be said. Did it make me love science? No. But did it make me view science in a new way? That maybe God had a purpose with it besides scaring me? Yes.

Thirteen years later, I was full-time subbing at Lifegate, formerly TCS where I had spent years of getting a wonderful education. I loved walking through the hallways and having such fun memories continuously flood my mind. Things in fourth and fifth grade sure stick with you. When I got the first call to sub for Miss Hipnar, I was thrilled, but when I learned she was battling cancer again, I knew it would be a more difficult situation than I had planned for.

Her students were wonderful, and each day that I walked into her room to teach for her, they behaved very well. They even knew I wasn’t very good at science. The thought of cancer was so unknown to them. Through their smiles and sweet hugs, I could see how much they missed Miss Hipnar. I remember spending lots of time praying with them. I didn’t know these students well, but I could instantly see the impact she had on them. They absolutely adored her. I knew why.

I remember the day Miss Hipnar came back to school and was back to stay. It was like the party on the last day of school. The kids were thrilled. I remember her giving me a quick hug and saying, “I’m thankful for you. I’ll be back for awhile.” I remember leaving that day so happy that she was back.

Miss Hipnar was a special teacher to me. She wasn’t my homeroom teacher, and she wasn’t one I ran to for everything each day (except for science). She wasn’t my typical teacher, but she absolutely loved Jesus. She loved singing praises to him even during hard times, and that inspired me. One of her favorite things to do was play guitar and sing. She relied on Jesus for everything until her last day, and now she is with Him in Heaven.

I’ll never forget her simple words, “There will be guitars and pianos in Heaven someday.” So thankful for you, Miss Hipnar. I’ll never forget the lessons you taught me.