I find that being aboard a train is a good time to think about where I've been and where I'm going, and I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the life of a person who had a tremendously positive impact on me. Her name was Sheila Becker Gailius, but I never called her by her first name. She was Ms. Becker to me, and she was my high school French teacher for French-AP my senior year.
My high school didn't want me to take French-AP at all, which is surprising because they pushed me harder academically than pretty much any other institution I've attended. They looked at my French record and saw that I was only a B student, and that I didn't challenge myself to take French IV Honors during my junior year. That was one of the first times in my life that I remember being seriously wicked pissed. My music teacher, who saw me speaking French non-stop on a band trip to Montreal doing interpreting for classmates, started the dialog to get me enrolled.
Once the modern languages department finally relented, Mlle. Becker could have killed that whole idea. But she didn't. I was afraid what she would think of me because I wasn't as academically skilled, or so it seemed on paper, as the other students. But she never mentioned it if she had any reservations about my ability. Once I got A's on my first two assignments, there was no looking back for any of us.
Boy was I glad I fought for this. Mlle. Becker was one of the best teachers I have seen or experienced in any discpline. Her class was total immersion French...she didn't speak English and scolded us when we did. She was challenging while being understanding. Her classes were interesting and focused on modern French culture and language, and to this day my love of French rock music comes from her.
When I got a French classroom of my own, I modeled her style and her passion for the language and culture. I tried to put myself in her shoes, and considering some of my classmates I often wondered how she did it. But she truly excelled. Add to all of this that she was such a giving person and you had the "perfect storm" in any classroom.
After I graduated in 1989, she continued teaching. I got to see her once on a visit back to BC High after that, but that was still about 20 years ago now. I had no idea it was going to be my last visit to her classroom.
Ms. Becker--now Ms. Sheila Becker Gailius--passed away less than a week ago after a long, drawn out battle with cancer. She had such an amazing impact on me as a person and as a French student that I just couldn't say nothing. She meant so much to me and to so many others.
I ask the blessings of the Lord and Lady for all those who mourn her passing. I can only thank the Divine for the amazing person she was, and feel fortunate that she took the time to share her passion for French with me and so many others. She will not be forgotten.
Adieu Mademoiselle Becker. Tu seras toujours dans mon coeur.