Thursday, December 12, 2013

Dear Mr. Zielinski...


That's what's written on the MIA bracelet I got from you while you taught a class of rowdy eight graders at Pattengill Middle School about the Vietnam War. Whenever I see it, or put it on, I always give my first thought to Col. Anderson and the circumstances of his disappearance; but invariably, the next thought I have is of the history teacher who gave me the bracelet.

This morning my three year old daughter found it. After I got the bracelet from little Karyn, I promised to teach her what it meant to me when she was old enough to understand. Then, as usual I thought of the colonel, next I thought of you.

To identify myself, at the time my name was Hart; Christine Hart. I'm happily married and have changed my name to Hancock. I was one of those rowdy eight graders you taught in the school year 1995-1996, and to be honest I don't think is was the brightest of them; however I remember you and think about those months in your class frequently.

Mr. Zielinski, you stood out to me from among all the other teachers I had; maybe because you were recently a soldier and you taught from that perspective. I also never ever caught you in a lie. Everything you taught in history class, as far as I can remember, was verifiable by historical document, news report, or witness' testimony. I've had a number of teachers for whom the same could not be said. Another thing that stood out about you was that you taught us that history and wars are not just bland facts confined solely to dusty, poorly written texts; but that our history was real and the wars had not just dull political ramifications, but also human consequences. I think was Mr. Vance you had come give a lecture on what it was like to fight and lose friends in the Vietnam War; then of course was that infamous prank you pulled with the hollowed out grenade (Ahh, the days before zero tolerance policies) That object lesson still makes me smile and laugh, but I also remember the point, that any moment could be my last.

I know you also taught math. While it's not the thing I remember you best for, I am thankful to you for enlightening me as to how to add and subtract with fractions. Your lectures cleared some things up that I had been struggling with for a couple years, and made algebra in high school much less painful than it otherwise would have been.

You influenced at least one underprivileged youth for the better, and it's felt today. Thank you. I hope you are well, and that you obtained your degree, and that you are still teaching.

Best wishes,
Christine S. Hancock

Mr. Zielinski's self portrait. Yeah, the publisher missed him.

I was recovering from a mullet. I've been wearing my hair long ever since.

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