Saturday, May 16, 2015

Miller and Me

I am fairly certain most folks have heard of the book entitled, "Marley and Me." Or if not, maybe you saw the movie.  That particular book had a rather sad ending; this particular story does not.

This is a story about "Miller and Me."  Our story began when Miller was 4-years old and singing in my children's choir at church.  Miller was a beautiful child, inside and out.  Miller loved to dance, but had not yet found her singing voice.  It was my job to help her find it and use it "for the glory of God" for as long as she was in my choir.  She stayed two years.  At the time, I was unaware that her mother was an elementary school principal.  All I knew was that Miller had a tough time sitting still and that she had severe food allergies. I related with this particular parent; my son had the same problem.

When Miller turned 5, she began kindergarten at one of the top-notch elementary schools in Northeast Florida.  This was the same school where her mother was principal.  My baby was two years behind Miller in school, so when it was time for him to start kindergarten, I decided to look for work as a music teacher in the public school system.  I had been teaching music at a private pre-school and was hoping for a full-time job the following school year.  The headmaster at the K-8 school that was attached to this pre-school had interviewed me and wanted to hire me as their full-time music teacher.  My heart was very unsettled on the matter, so I could not commit to her offer.  It wasn't until several weeks later, that I discovered why....

The bass player on our church's worship team played at a wedding one Saturday night with the music teacher at an elementary school in Duval County.  He informed me that the current teacher's wife had been transferred and he would be moving at the end of the school year.  Not ever being one to waste time, I did an online search only to discover that the principal of this particular elementary school was Miller's mother.  And, so it began.  The story of "Miller and Me" and our musical journey together.

Her mother hired me part-time my first year with the understanding that as soon as she could, she would move me to full-time. This was at a time when music was being cut at the elementary level all across the district.  My mom and I spent two weeks over the summer in "my" classroom cleaning it up and getting it ready, although my paperwork had not yet been finalized.  I even showed up for work at the start of the school year - I worked two full weeks - and still had no idea if I actually had the job.  Towards the end of the second week of school, I was passing through the cafeteria during lunch to check on my own little kindergartener and the principal smiled at me from across the cafeteria and gave me a big "thumbs-up."  I knew at that moment, God had intervened and it was official.  I was an elementary music teacher at the best school in the system! And my kids got to go with me!!

I remained in that teaching position for the next nine years - the longest I had ever held a position in my entire life. I was Miller's music teacher until she moved on to Middle School.  Last year, Miller and I reconnected when I accepted a position as the Director of Choral Studies at my former high school.  She and I have spent the last two years together in chorus - I as her teacher, she as my student.  At our Spring Concert, it is tradition to celebrate our seniors.  There she little Miller....on the stage proclaiming to the world that she would be attending Clemson University in the fall and performing with the Tiger Dance Team.  That was a very proud moment for me.  Her mother stood at the edge of the stage with tears in her eyes thanking me for being such an incredible part of her daughter's life-journey. 

This time of year is always bittersweet for a teacher.  My seniors graduate and move on in their life-journey.  Some will come back and visit; others will not.  This particular student will forever be a part of my life and emblazoned on my heart.  So will her mother.

Miller, you now have permission to call me by my first name.  That is what grown-ups do.  Congratulations on graduating from high school and making the Tiger Dance Team!!  I am so proud of you!!  Wishing you the best, now and always.  Love you - Mrs. Tamburrino

Mrs. Tamburrino and Miller
Until next time...