The things I remember about Mrs. Sandich: she wouldn’t have hit the five-foot mark in stocking feet; she was “really old” (maybe late 50s); her behind-the-back nickname was Mrs. Sandwich; she was kind and patient. I wouldn’t have talked disrespectfully to her to save my life.
Mrs. Sandich was my eighth-grade teacher at what was then Indianapolis Public School #86. On the corner of 49th and Graceland (a four block walk from my house), it was right across the street from the famed Butler University fieldhouse. My high school buddies and I spent uncountable hours playing various sports on the college’s greens, and we knew where there was a hold in the fence to sneak into the Butler Bowl – yes, it is truly a bowl – football games. The old building still stands, but no longer as a public elementary school. It’s now the lower campus of the International School of Indiana and educates students in grades 3-5. When I last drove past the charming turn of the 20th Century building some years ago, I wondered if anyone remotely like Mrs. Sandich was teaching there now.
I don’t remember if, at the end of my high school years, I looked up my 8th grade teacher to thank her. I should have. As a 13-year-old being taught algebraic equation solutions or as an 18-year-old raring to catch a tiger by the tail, a sense of gratitude for the pedagogues who helped bring me to those points was not in the forefront of my thoughts. Maybe not even in my afterthoughts. It should have been.
Mrs. Sandich at School #86. Miss Richards at Shortridge High School. Dr. White at Miami University. Heroes one and all. Unsung, but heroes it the truest sense. As a septuagenarian I now look back and realize that a gigantic percentage of who and what I am can be credited to the hundreds of people for whom mentoring guys like me was their calling in life. I’d love to split a pot of coffee with any or all of them and offer my thanks in what would surely be inadequate words. That would take days upon days, and, of course, is impossible.
What is possible is for me to remember and affirm my indebtedness to them for what they did for me. What is also possible is for me to follow in their steps and be willing to give of myself for others as they did. Mrs. Sandich doesn’t have a star on the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard. But she did as much, or more, for the world than many of those immortalized in bronze on that sidewalk.