It’s been over 17 years since I walked the halls of All Souls. A decade of my life spent within those walls. Many a friend made there. Many tears and laughter shared there.
Some incredible teachers helped me along my academic journey from Kindergarten through 8th grade. Each left their own imprint on me and how I make choices today. But none so profoundly as one Ms. Trudy Miles.
My first memory of her is in kindergarten. It was the year-end, all-school production. I have no idea what it was about. All I know is the kindergartners were dressed as hobos and we were to sing, “Big Rock Candy Mountain”. Someone said, “Go!” so away I went with one other girl in my class. We were so nervous and excited, we didn’t notice none of our classmates were with us. We just walked into the auditorium and sat down on the risers like we belonged there, right in the middle of a number. Ms. Miles stared at us with such a look of incredulousness, we quickly realized we were not supposed to be there and took off. She recounted this story many years later, and I sheepishly admitted it was me. I never heard her laugh as hard as that day.
Trudy Miles was formidable. She was no-nonsense. She expected the best from every single one of her students, and there were few things more damaging to one’s ego than to disappoint her. I feared her as much as I respected her. I have never had quite a panic attack as the one that would take place right before English class as I made sure I had done all of my homework. She had a way of knowing your potential, pushing you out of your comfort zone, and would be the first to congratulate you when you succeeded with an exuberant, “YES!!!” I was fortunate enough to be able to spend time with Ms. Miles outside of school and see her in her own environment, her home. Her laugh was infectious, and it was my first real experience in realizing teachers have lives outside the school. She was human.
She challenged me to think outside the box. She taught me to love the English language, to respect it, and in doing so, strive to always spell and punctuate accurately. She taught me that aiming to be the best is a good thing and should be rewarded. I will never forget the glorious day I got Chair #1. It only happened once. And as a 14-year-old girl, it was all I needed.
She was a master of diagramming sentences, which is a skill I (mentally) use daily in life. She taught me to not be led by the crowd and be confident in myself and my choices. That I have a talent, and it should not be wasted.
She profoundly loved James Dean and Jackson Browne. She taught me that lyrics are poetry. She showed me what good writing and literature could be, through authors like Harper Lee and William Golding, poets like Robert Frost and Edgar Allen Poe. She stoked the fire that was my love of reading and made sure it never burned out. It hasn’t.
It is with a very heavy heart I write this today. A firecracker has been put out, and my world will never be the same. I am saddened for all her current students, for the ones who will never get to know her, for her colleagues and the countless alumni I know are grieving with me.
There will never be another Trudy Jo Miles. She will never be forgotten. And every time I watch Giant or Rebel Without a Cause, or hear “Running on Empty,” or “Doctor, My Eyes,” I will smile in memory of you and remember the infinite ways you helped shape me into the woman, the human being, I am today.