Virginia Kernaghan, an early teaching mentor and dear friend taught Theater Arts at Alvin Junior High for 30 years.I met her when I taught there in 1968. I knew that Ms. Kernaghan loved a Diet Tab for breakfast instead of coffee, and I knew that the long walk from her “Speech” classroom in the 400 hall was a long walk for her, supported by her “polio cane.” One morning, I arrived early, bought my Tab from the vending machine in the teacher’s lounge, and took an extra to her classroom. She was rehearsing some students for an UIL competition, and hadn’t stopped to get her morning Tab. She drank the drink I brought her and invited me to watch the students practice. With Speech as my second teaching field, I was fascinated and made some helpful, coaching comments to Virginia to pass along to the students. That Tab and that rehearsal was the beginning of a lifelong friendship.
Virginia was the victim of polio. She caught it as a young child and had had several surgeries during her life to “correct” the pain it caused. She walked with a cane in 1968 and graduated to a motorized scooter before retiring from teaching. When helping clean out her filing cabinet after her retirement, I found an autobiographical sketch she had written which stated her philosophy, one based on the novel Pollyanna by Eleanor Hodgeman Porter.
I had always thought of the novel as saccharine, cloying and “sickly sweet.” However, when researching this novel for this post, I found these words, written by the author defending her novel from just such criticism: ” Pollyanna did not pretend that everything was good. Instead, she represented a cheery, courageous acceptance of facts…She understood that unpleasant things were always with us, but she believed in mitigating them by looking to whatever good there is in what is.” (Read in Simple Abundance , my morning devotional book)
Virginia lived her life according to the “rules” set out by Pollyanna, the protagonist of the novel. She always looked on the bright side; the glass was half full at all times; there was a reason for everything that happened–even the bad things. She taught these concepts and modeled them for thousands of 7th and 8th graders over her teaching career, both in Alvin and elsewhere. On July 6th, 2016, the world lost a superb teacher and a beloved mentor to many. RIP, Virginia.
I had planned to post this tribute on June 6th, the anniversary of her death, but I was busy getting summer session set up and failed to meet my deadline. Then, on the next opportunity, July 31st, her birthday, I was in the hospital. I finally felt well enough to put it together today. Thank you, dear readers for reading this long, overdue post.