by Janie Haugen-McLane, Co-Founder PCI Education
(Second in a Series: 20+ Years Building PCI Education)
There will always be certain students whom you remember fondly. For me, the first was Russell M. in my classroom in Houston, Texas, 1987. In order to save money (in a tough economy), a teacher who resigned from the campus… “adults with special needs,” was not replaced.
All the teachers had to draw names from a hat to get four new students. I had only been there a few weeks and didn’t know any students other than the ones in my classroom. I drew the name, Russell M. and was quite surprised when a long-term teacher looked at me and with wide-eyes exclaimed, “Whew, I’m glad I didn’t get him.” That was a little scary to say the least.
I was nervous the next morning anxious to see my students when the door opened wide and they blew in. One student stopped dead still, looked over at me, and said, “A princess!” Here was this tall, early 30ish handsome man with an impish grin from ear to ear. He held out a hand to shake and said with the slightest lisp, “I’m Russell. You are pretty.”
We were crazy about each other right from the start. In fact, he became a little too infatuated with me so I had my big, burly husband, Jeff, come visit the classroom and Russell “fell” for him too! While on business trips, Jeff began sending Russell postcards from all over the country—it was the perfect win-win solution. After each trip, Russell would ask my husband if he saw any “grrrrs,” their secret word for pretty girls and when not out of town Jeff would often take off work early to come visit with Russell – some time for man talk.
In March of that year, Jeff sent a bunch of daffodils, King Alfreds, for my birthday. I told Russell that since I was a little girl, I had called them Buttercups because yellow was my favorite color… he never forgot that conversation. Even years later, Russell would talk to me or write me and mention my favorite flowers. Of course, he always called them Buttercups. How I loved him, his mischievous almost shy smile, and his entertaining stories.
I met Russell’s parents and we all became friends. When my husband decided to start a bio-tech company in San Antonio in 1988, the hardest part was leaving Russell and the other students in my class. We all cried and Russell said, “I’ll be over to see you, don’t you worry.”
And you know what? His family did come to San Antonio in their motor-home and we had a wonderful time. Russell is one of the bright lights in my life.
I thank God everyday for allowing me the honor of drawing Russell’s name from that hat. It turned out to be my lucky hat. Sometimes things just fall into place, and Russell fell into the center of my heart. I miss him greatly!
Question of the Week: Who was that first student who stole your heart and made you love teaching? Please use the first name and last initial for privacy reasons. PCI and I would love to hear your experience.
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Janie McLane Co-Founder PCI Education
Janie Haugen-McLane, creator of PCI’s flagship product, the best-selling Life Skills Programs, Series I and II, draws on her years of teaching to develop real-world, innovative educational products. She has conceived of and developed more than 95% of PCI’s proprietary products and has attracted a number of nationally recognized authors to PCI.