Point of View - Written by Mike Gerver

In fifth grade, I had the privilege of having Ms. Jennifer Giegerich, or “ Ms. G” as we called her, as my teacher. It was clear from the beginning that she held this very innate, vibrant positive energy that shone through everything she did. The kind of affection and dedication she had for her job and students was simply incredible, and her tremendous ability to peacefully govern a class of young kids made us all respect her. She was honest and open with us. She never talked down to us. She treated us as equals, and she made learning more fun than ever before.

During the year, the fifth grade classes were required to do some form of listening exercises. While the other teachers would just read a book to their respective classes and have the students answer questions, Ms. G wantedsomething more interactive that we would really enjoy—so she played some of her favorite songs, had us listen to each a few times, and then try to write the lyrics down. She played us “ Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” by The Police, “ I Wish” by Skee Lo, and my personal favorite “ It’s Not Unusual” by Tom Jones. Ten years later, whenever I hear one of these songs I remember her.

Around Christmas that year, she came in dressed as an elf and spent the whole day making sure we were all in good spirits for the holidays. Her students’happiness was the most important thing to her, but unfortunately, in the few weeks that followed, she had to leave us. Again, she was honest with us. She told us about the disease she had that would keep her out of school for some of the year. We were all heartbroken, and started looking forward to the day she would come back to work. She was back intermittently, but for never more than a few days, and then our school year was over. She couldn’t make it to our graduation, so she sent a tape telling us how proud she was of us and how shewished we could have had more time together. We all wished that.

After that year, I learned what she had was something called cystic fibrosis, and it was a disease that affected the lungs. I thought back to fifth grade and I vividly remembered during tests, when the room was really quiet, I could hear her gasping for air in each of her breaths. As a fifth grader, I had never made that connection.

In seventh grade, I heard that she was back teaching again and she was doing well. My friend and I had been inducted into the National Junior Honor Society and were given star-shaped pins to give to our most influential middle school teacher. But we felt no one was as influential as Ms. G, and even thoughshe was in the elementary school, we wanted her to have the pins. We scheduled a meeting with her, gave her the pins, and we all caught up on each other’s lives. That day was the last day I saw her.

After that, her health began to deteriorate and she passed away at the age of 37. In the few months I had her as a teacher, she had such a profound, everlasting effect on my life. She taught us how to live with love in our hearts, smiles on our faces, and most importantly, how to always stay positive to get the most out of life. As the years went on and I finished high school and college, I never forgot about her. Once I heard about the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and had seen the kind of work they do, I had to volunteer. Now I am lucky enough to be part of a team working to add tomorrows to the lives of those affected by CF. I usually volunteer once a week, doing graphic design work and general office jobs, and I am doing it all to preserve the memory and kind-hearted, gracious legacy of my all-time favorite teacher, Ms. G