You Taught Us So Much


Mrs. Audrey Wacker
Those of my readers who attended Nativity of Mary School at any point during the 1970’s or 1980’s will undoubtedly remember Mrs. Audrey Wacker and for those of you who didn’t, permit me a moment to fill you in.

Mrs. Wacker was one of the four Junior High School (7th and 8th grade) teachers at Nativity during my time as a student there.

One of my first memories of Mrs. Wacker (as my teacher) was a humorous lesson about the pronunciation of her name. She wrote her name on the chalkboard, and acknowledged to all of us that while her name LOOKS like it should be pronounced “whack-er” it is actually pronounced “walk-er”. (Remember folks, she is teaching 7th and 8th grade students.) It’s almost as if she knew these pre-pubescent junior high school kids were going to grab hold of the obvious, and using humor – she emasculated that power that “whack-er” may have had right from the moment of introduction!

Smart lady!

As a younger Nativity-ite (a student grades 3-6), I would often get short glimpses into her basement classroom from my lunchroom table. These glimpses were filled with wonder, amazement, and (to be honest) a little trepidation. Her classroom was filled with items that would capture the imagination (and maybe even fuel a few nightmares) of “tweenaged” school children. She had several glass display cases filled with various “scientific” items. Bird nests, birds eggs, snake skins, turtle shells, rocks, minerals, fossils, skeletal remains, preserved animals of various species, and jars of formaldehyde filled with tapeworms, bovine (or equestrian?) eyeballs, brains, and even a one very large jar containing two fetal whitetail deer (that would seemingly stare out at me from their perpetual state of suspended animation inside the jar). It was obvious to all around that her passion was teaching Science class.

If you had Mrs. Wacker as a teacher, you will certainly remember many things. Just a few of the things that stick out in my mind include…

Pithing” and dissecting earthworms, grasshoppers, and frogs.

Using microscopes to search for some elusive protozoa or amoeba (the name of which escapes me at the moment, but am certain I would know it if I heard it) in droplets of water “brewed” in our own micro swamps (buckets of swamp water, leaves, sticks, and debris left to ferment into “cesspools” of bacteria).

There was her famous slide shows from trips to the Galapagos Islands, and stories about big game hunts and African safaris.

I’ll never forget being introduced to the concept of genealogy, and how Mrs. Wacker had us build and challenged us to expand our own family trees.

Her lessons often included a television element. We would be asked to view one of several educational television shows (usually on PBS – Shows like Nature, Nova, or Cosmos) and she would have quizzes ready for us the following day.

And, let’s not forget the “World Geology Timeline” that I unearthed during a recent amateur archeological discovery (and lamented my “less than deserved” grade). That was a Mrs. Wacker project also (and so was that darn grade)!

While science was her obvious passion, she taught other academic subjects (and many non-academic lessons) as well. Mrs. Wacker was the last teacher I had that started the day off with a prayer, and had her class stand at attention to pledge allegiance to the flag each and every day. She was the teacher who made us memorize many of the formal Catholic prayers I still use to this day, and she had NO FEAR of openly and quite frankly sharing her thoughts on the subject of pre-marital sex with her students. (I recall several instances of her telling us how much she wished she could jump up and down, stomp her feet, and shout “no sex until marriage” from the rooftop – actually stomping her feet, jumping up and down, and cupping her hands like a megaphone for emphasis.)

Mrs. Wacker was a patient woman. She dealt with kids in an age group well known for their “squirreliness”, lack of maturity, and hormonal imbalances (a truly volatile combination of traits) in a kind, compassionate and understanding way yet was not afraid to discipline students that required it. I am not aware of any students that harbor any ill for having been disciplined by her.

The genuine interest she had and maintained in her students was obvious – both during their time in her classroom and well beyond. Several years after passing through the halls of Nativity, I ran into Mrs. Wacker. Not only did she remember me (by name) – but she also inquired about my sister (by name) as well.

Mrs. Wacker captivated our attention, challenged our abilities, and left a lasting impression on so many of us. Even now 30+ years later, I still can recall many fond (and vivid) memories of the time I spent as her student. More so than with any other teacher I have had. It’s not just me. When my Nativity “Family” (quotation marks intended) have a little get together – inevitably, our conversations turn to our memories of Mrs. Wacker.

Sadly, a few days ago Mrs. Walker was called home into the loving arms of our Lord and Savior. Yes, sadly for us – but at the same time I am grateful for her eternal freedom from the struggles and limitations she and her family dealt with for the last several years.

Thank you Mrs. Wacker.

Thank you for all you have done for me, and for all you have taught me. Thank you for all you have done and all you have taught the countless students that filled the desks of your classroom. There is a special place for an angel like you in heaven!



For those of you who knew Mrs. Wacker and are so inclined - here is a LINK to her obituary and on line guest book on Legacy.com.

Also, feel free to share any of your favorite memories of Mrs. Wacker in the comments of this blog - below!.

3 comments:

  1. Wow...you did a fabulous job of accurately describing a truly outstanding teacher. I can't think of a single word that I could add to paint such a beautiful and true picture of Mrs. Wacker. I felt all of the sentiments that you wrote as if I wrote them myself. I know she would be proud!!!! I am certain that she is in heaven now with her slide projector giving talks on all of her exotic travels. How blessed we all were to have such a unique, caring, and loving teacher.

    Sis (Denise Cuestas)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dave,
    I laughed and smiled as I was reading your post. It brought back the memories of Mrs. Wacker and her classroom so vividly. She always had so much energy and passion.

    My family even donated 2 items to her "collection" in her classroom. My Father and Grandfather had 2 ducks that they got on a hunting trip when I was about 3 years old. The ducks hung in the basement of our house until we moved to Bloomington . . . and once we saw Mrs. Wacker's classroom we KNEW we had found the perfect new home for them. After leaving Nativity, if I would see her she would mention how much she loved those ducks.

    She was a wonderful woman
    Shawn (Hagerty) Mosch

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am a high school English teacher and would be happy for my former students to think of me in such ways.

    ReplyDelete

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