Some of a child’s most impressionable years are the five years they spend in elementary school. Each year, children learn to cooperate with classmates, work as a group, create connections and express their feelings. While a child’s classmates help them develop into who they are, their elementary school teachers undoubtedly have the strongest impression on their growth and development. All five of my elementary school teachers left a huge mark on me and helped me grow into the person I am today. They all helped me believe in myself, grow confidence, and expand my learning abilities.
Occasionally, I go back to Claypit Hill Elementary School to visit the teachers that made me who I am. A smile spreads across my face as I reminisce on the things they taught me and thank them for everything they have done. Nothing compares to the way your childhood teachers’ eyes light up when you walk into their classroom years later, grown up and wiser than ever.
However, I regret not visiting my teachers more often. In particular, I extremely regret not visiting my third-grade teacher, Pamela Pingeton, as often as I could. Pamela Pingeton, 53, passed away peacefully at home surrounded by a loving family on Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. Every time her name crosses my mind, I wish I had spent more time thanking her for all she had done for me.
Pam Pingeton was much more than an ordinary elementary school teacher. She was passionate and inspiring and longed for each of her students to do well. She challenged us every day and fought for the best education we could receive. Not only was she a fighter for us, but she was also a fighter for herself. Pingeton battled breast cancer several times, but it never stopped her passion to educate her students.
My third-grade year was Mrs. Pingeton’s first year in Wayland. I was beyond excited to be in the classroom of a new teacher, and other students envied my class for the new experience we received. Our school year was definitely different from the other third-graders, however, as our teacher was diagnosed with breast cancer around halfway through the school year.
Pingeton told our class that she would have to be out for a while, so we had a substitute teacher for about half of the year. I don’t remember everything too well, but I remember how sad it was for all of us to not be able to spend every school day with the teacher we all adored. I vividly remember her coming to class sometimes with different bandanas on her head, as she was losing her hair due to chemotherapy. She once read our class a book about a young girl who lost her hair to chemotherapy. That’s when we got the idea.
On the day Pingeton was to return to class after her treatment, our entire class decided to all wear bandanas so she would not feel isolated. As she walked into the classroom with a bandana wrapped around our head, a group of third-graders smiled back at her with our hair wrapped in identical bandanas.
Of course, I don’t remember everything about my third-grade year all too well. However, Pingeton had such a strong impact on me, and her unmatched passion and strength can never be forgotten. I wish I could go back in time and visit her every day, give her a strong hug that she deserves, and tell her what an impact she had on me.
Because I can’t tell Pingeton all of these things that I wish I could, I am writing this open letter, so that all of you can hear the message that I wish I could send to her. I will never forget the days I spent learning from Pingeton. Our class name was the “Pingeton Pals,” and I have continued to refer to myself as a Pingeton Pal for as long as I can remember.
Pingeton’s favorite animal was a blue heron, so our class mascot was a blue heron. Every time I see or hear of this animal, Pingeton will continue to cross my mind. Blue herons aren’t that common to see, but I urge you to remember her every time the animal happens to come up in a random discussion.
Last week, I had played in a basketball game called “Coaches vs. Cancer” in honor of former WHS guidance counselor Jim Griffin, who passed away in 2012 from pancreatic cancer. All of the players wrote the names of someone in their lives who they have lost to cancer, and we decided we would play and win for them. I wrote “Pam P” in bold letters across my wrist, and gave everything I had in that game to honor her life. I continue to play and work for her in everything that I do.
Although this letter is late, I still found it necessary to express the impression Pingeton had on my life. My classmates and I will never forget the sparkle in her eyes when she taught us something new. Some of my third-grade classmates also wanted to send a message regarding Pingeton’s wonderful life and the passion she had for teaching us.
“She was my absolute favorite teacher from elementary school,” junior Madeleine Reck said. “I remember one time she threw off her hat after her hair loss and laughed, which just showed how she was always optimistic and would do anything to make us smile. She would also come over to me and grab my ponytail and say how much she wanted my hair, which has inspired me now to grow it out until I can donate it in honor of her.”
“Mrs. Pingeton was a very important person in my life,” junior Audrey Harris said. “She was my third-grade teacher, and my first teacher after I moved into Wayland schools. Even though I did not know anyone in the school, she made the transition quite easy for me. She always would make learning fun for us by having spelling tests or poetry slams. I remember the first time that she was diagnosed with cancer. She never showed her fear but was always so strong. She fought hard against cancer for many years but eventually lost the battle, I will forever remember her and the impact that she had on my life.”
“Mrs. Pingeton always found the light in the most tedious, the most dreadful, and the most difficult situations,” junior Kathleen Tobin said. “Although I was younger, I have vivid memories of her beautiful personality that never failed to brighten your day. She was a treasure to all those around her and is undoubtedly missed by all those who were lucky enough to meet her.”
“She was one of the sweetest teachers I’ve ever had,” junior Lindsey Biggs said. “She was such a genuine person. Even after third-grade she’d often chat with me and make such a huge effort to put a smile on my face. She was one of the most welcoming people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.”
“Mrs. Pingeton was a fundamental teacher in my elementary education,” junior Jay Provost said. “She was always caring and kind despite battling a tolling disease. She will be missed but she won’t be forgotten.”
“Mrs. Pingeton was truly an unforgettable teacher,” junior Andrea Shang said. “Even now, eight years later, I can still remember my excitement to go to class every single day. From counting “Pingeton points” to drawing cranes, there was never a boring moment in her classroom. She was such an amazing, caring, and loving person that will be missed immensely. I could not have asked for a better third-grade teacher.”
“Mrs. Pingeton was a teacher I’ll never forget,” junior Isabella Cvrk said. “She was kind, funny, and smart, and you could tell how much she cared just by the way she treated the kids she taught everyday. I think that she will always be one of my biggest role models.”
Evidently, Pingeton had a great impact on everyone she met. Her bright and bubbly personality radiated throughout rooms, inspiring everyone to learn and be motivated. So, to Pam Pingeton, thank you for your unmatched desire and passion to teach. You will never be forgotten, and your third-grade class will carry on your legacy throughout our educational careers. Thank you for everything you did for us.
Opinion articles written by staff members represent their personal views. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent WSPN as a publication.