My dad told me this morning that Miss Janice Dager, my 5th and 6th grade teacher, had fallen asleep in the Lord Jesus Christ a few days earlier following a lengthy battle against cancer.
Jan taught at the Lutheran grade school I attended from 3rd through 8th grade and for many years attended the same Lutheran church I did. She spent her entire teaching career at St. Paul's Lutheran School in Kingsville, MD. She taught the same grades during her long tenure.
Jan was an awesome teacher. She encouraged us to read, and many of her homework assignments involved reading assignments. Every year she picked a few books and set aside about 20 minutes each day just reading to us. She introduced me to The Chronicles of Narnia, and thus is responsible for my avid interest in C.S. Lewis’ books to this very day.
Part of our class schedule involved religion, and each morning we began our day with devotions. I do not recall the exact specifics of her devotions, but I do recall her piety and knowledge as she taught us the Lutheran faith and reinforced what we learned through Wednesday chapel services and for many of us in class who were members of the St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church that supported the school.
One of Jan's talents was singing. For many years she sang in our church choir and in a four-person harmony quartet.
Even after teaching me for two years, she remained a positive influence in my life. She would ask how things were going in high school and college.
I know she touched the lives of thousands upon thousands of students like she did me, and her compassion and zeal for reading and singing must surely have influenced the many of us who passed through her classroom.
At our school, the 5th and 6th grades were responsible for the spring pageant. I recall that one year we focused on American history and sang many songs about Native Americans, national folk songs and patriotic songs. The other year was European history, and we sang French, English and German songs and anthems (among other nationalities). I was brave enough to dance at these pageants, and still remember learning the Charleston and the Maypole dances. The 7th and 8th grades were responsible for the Christmas pageant, and the 5th and 6th grades were the choir for the play so we learned many Christmas songs and lead the audience in singing them.
The spring also brought with it the President's Physical Fitness test. I never was able to earn the award and patch, but I tried my best and had much fun in the activities. Jan always cheered us on and encouraged us to work hard and never give up.
These are fond memories shared with a beloved teacher. I mourn her death, but know one day we will be reunited again in Paradise as we await the return of Jesus and the resurrection of our bodies.