Sunday, February 19, 2012

Signal Hill School Days

A walk down memory lane today, dear reader.  But the message is much more important than a bit of self indulgence.  In this age of disrespect for one's school and for schooling in general, I'll speak of the inspiration my elementary school, Signal Hill School, was and still is for me. 

Signal Hill School
Photo from a painting by Marjorie Smith
Signal Hill, a public school and the only one in the district, was built in 1909 for an expanding population of families wishing to live close to the bluffs formed by the Mississippi River, on the Illinois side, with Missouri on the other.  The school, even in its earliest days, enjoyed a reputation of excellence.

My father attended Signal Hill, and both my parents wanted me to have the same experience he had there.  And that's where my love affair with learning began in earnest.

That quest for learning is an intangible thing and, coupled with curiosity, is a life changer.  How do we make the intangible, tangible?  The teachers then, as today, were paramount.  Almost to a person, and whether I liked them or not, they demanded respect, and their expectations for us were high.  And most importantly, these expectations were consistent, never wavering and usually fair. 

Nancy at Age Nine
(Newspaper Article Photo)
As I progressed through Signal Hill, I clearly remember that absolute quest for knowledge continued to grow, and it was always satisfied by being in the classroom, listening to the teachers, reading  books that were assigned, joining in quality discussions and being in the moment of the experience at hand.  For me, those moments grew exponentially into a love of learning that has taken me to this moment.

No apologies for high rhetoric here.  Signal Hill gave me tools with which to live my life, both structurally and academically, as these two components work together.  In conducting my professional life and raising my three sons far away from Signal Hill School, the spectre of those days returns again and again as a model for excellence.  I try to reflect its standards in the fabric of my life. 

 I want to thank Signal Hill School for trying to do the best for each child, knowing there were, as with anything, some failures along the way.  But there were many more successes, and for that I salute you.


  1. Nancy,

    I wish students today had the same hunger for learning as you had growing up. As a classroom teacher , I am astounded with the lack of respect towards teachers and more importantly for learning in general. We live in very strange times! Thanks for taking me down memory lane .

    Nicole Weaver
    Trilingual Children's Author

  2. Thanks so much for your comments, Nicole. Yes, these are different days and disturbing ones, too. What you've said here rings so true, but it is still teachers like you that can and do make the difference!

  3. Lovely post, Nancy! And I adore the picture of 9 year old you!

  4. Thanks for sharing your wonderful memories, Nancy. It's amazing what a great school experience can do for an individual.

    As a retired teacher, my heart leaps for joy when I reconnect with my old students and they share how I changed their lives. When you're teaching, Nicole, most of the time you have no idea you're getting through to them.

  5. Hi Nancy:

    What a lovely tribute to your school! I remember many of my teachers fondly, especially Mrs. Brand who always made sure the other teachers did not invoke comparisions of me and my twin sister. Mr. DeMeola who I attribute my continued love for history and taught the simpliest way of remembering West and East when looking at the map of the United States. Take the first letter of each and it spells WE.

    All the best,
    The Golden Pathway Story book Blog

  6. Nancy, I loved every line of this story. What a great school. Was there one teacher, above all the others, that influenced you particularly - or you really liked a lot?

    My school experience was nowhere near as illuminating and memorable. Perhaps memorable in the opposite way would be closer to the truth. Your wonderful school experience set you up to deal with life, and I am so happy for you about that.

    BOOKS for Kids - Manuscript Critiques

  7. Thank you so much, one and all for your gracious comments! They are remarkable and are so appreciated. All best wishes to you.

  8. Thank you for sharing the memories, Nancy. Sweet picture of you! It's sad how much the school experience has changed over the years.

  9. I couldn't agree more, Connie. So sad, not to mention worrying...