Posted by Danny
My high school PE teacher was Miss Cherry. To a 16-year-old, she seemed 113 years old.
She was slight with short brown hair and glasses. She wore gray work pants most days with a zip up navy jacket. She referred to each student by their last name.
“What’s your problem Tanner? Why aren’t you dressed out today?” she asked in her low raspy voice.
“Forgot my uniform Miss Cherry.” Truth be told I knew I was going to fall off the balance beam in front of the entire class so I selectively decided to give myself a deserved break from PE hell.
“Let’s go check your locker.”
“Open it Tanner; go on.”
“Look. There it is right under your science book.”
“Oh, I must have overlooked it.” How humiliating.
“I’ll see you at the balance beam in two minutes.”
“Can’t wait.” Errrr.
Looking back on it, the thing I admired most about Miss Cherry was not her ability to sniff out a liar, it was her willingness to role model what she expected from us. Each day when we entered the gym, we would spread out and start our arm rolls. We’d hold our arms out to the side, like we were on a cross, and rotate them forward for what seemed like 27 minutes and then backwards for an equal amount of time. She didn’t walk around the class patrolling our form. She stood up front and rolled her arms with us – the entire “54” minutes.
I actually enjoyed PE during track season, running was my thing. I had a friend, however, who suffered from asthma so that was a difficult few weeks for her. I remember Ann struggling one day and asking Miss Cherry for a break.
“I’ve got a little asthma myself McNeil. I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do. Let’s go.”
And together they jogged around the track, both with a slight wheeze, for the remainder of the class period.
There have been times in my life, and especially this past year, that I’ve just wanted to stop running. I’ve wanted to crawl in the bed, pull up the covers and stay there for an indefinite period of time. But there are a lot of people out there who are in situations that are much more horrible than mine. And somehow, they run. They run while experiencing the loss of a loved one, or illness, or divorce, or job loss and financial crisis. They run with mental illness or with children who aren’t exactly what they’d dreamed they would be. I see them every day. What incredible role models they are for me. They are my present-day Miss Cherrys.
To all of you who have set the example for me on how to face adversity with strength and courage, I thank you. You don’t realize how much your actions mean to those of us watching from the sidelines.