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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Remembering Mrs. Martha Jane Wilhoit, typing teacher extraordinaire

I had a lot of teachers when I was in school -- heck, I went to three different schools (long story), and when you go to three different schools, you have a lot of teachers.

I had some really great ones. And I had some others who made me think, "Uh, do you know that what you just told us is actually wrong?"

But I only had one teacher back in The Day whom I can honestly say put the fear of God into me when I walked into her classroom. And she's the one I'm recalling fondly in this note tonight.

Mrs. Martha Jane Wilhoit taught me -- and probably about two or three generations of other kids -- how to type. I'm so saddened to report that she passed on on Monday at the age of 78. (The Augusta Chronicle has her obituary online here.)

Mrs. Wilhoit was the toughest teacher I ever had. When you walked in her classroom, she meant business, from the first bell to the last. No low-down hangin' around allowed.

You didn't talk to your friends in her class. You didn't pass notes in her class. You didn't goof off or stare out the window in her class. You didn't doodle on your notepad. You typed.

You typed as soon as you sat down -- well, right after you removed the plastic dust cover from your aging IBM Selectric. And you typed until the bell rang. And you typed. That was all you did. You typed.

This wasn't class. It was typing boot camp.

And when she got finished with you, you knew how to type. Period.

I can still hear her now, instructing my class in the late 1980s to remove our paper from beneath our paper bail rollers (now that everyone uses computers instead of typewriters, do kids today ever have to mess with a paper bail roller? Do they even know what one is?).

I vaguely recall that she posted the best students' work on a bulletin board near her classroom door -- I wasn't the greatest typist in the world, and I don't think I ever made it to the bulletin board. But I passed, and now I make a living sitting in front of a computer 8/10/12 hours a day, doing what Mrs. Wilhoit taught me to do.

I'll always be grateful to her for that. I bet a lot of other folks out there will be, too.

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