My New Primary Teacher

By Lisa Ray Turner

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    Teacher, do you love me?
    Teacher, will you care for me?
    Even if I turn away, or disobey … ?
    Oh yes, my child, I love you.
    My child, I’ll always care for you.
    (Children’s Songbook, page 178.)

    Sister Fisher scared me. Whenever I saw her coming, I turned the other direction and hoped she wouldn’t see me.

    The trouble had started three weeks ago. On my way to Primary, I stopped to play with the drinking fountain. The fountain wasn’t working right, and I knew it, but nobody else did. When ward members came by for a drink, I politely offered to press the button for them. Boy, were they surprised when the water overshot by about a foot and they got a face full of water!

    Everyone fell for it but Sister Fisher. When I offered to hold the button for her, she whispered, “Hayley, don’t you think you’d better run on to Primary? You’re going to be late. Besides, I don’t want to be shot in the face by the drinking fountain.”

    Red-faced, I ran to class. How had Sister Fisher known? I’d tricked everyone else.

    But the fountain experience wasn’t the only thing different about her. Not only did she act scary, she looked scary. She had wild, frizzy hair that stuck out on the sides and was the color of a pumpkin. Honest—the color of a pumpkin! She wore thick, black-rimmed glasses and lots of smeared, red lipstick. And even though she was big and tall, her clothes made her look even taller. She always wore long skirts and high heels. She looked like she would fall off the heels, but she never did.

    I knew I needed to get used to Sister Fisher’s odd looks, because she was my new Primary teacher! I couldn’t believe it—I’d gotten the scariest teacher in the whole Primary.

    When Sunday came, I clung to my best friend, Marci. “What do you think of Sister Fisher?” I asked her.

    Marci looked a little worried and said, “She’s strange. I’ve heard she wears a necklace with a real shark’s tooth on it. What do you think that means?”

    “It means she’s weird,” I replied.

    Just as I was going to tell Marci my ideas on why anybody would wear a shark’s tooth, class started. I sat up tall, determined to listen to every word. I was afraid Sister Fisher wouldn’t like me after the drinking fountain incident, so I thought it might help if I looked like I was interested.

    “Good morning, boys and girls,” Sister Fisher said. “I’m happy to have you all in my class. We’re going to have a good time together.”

    Easy for her to say, I thought to myself. We aren’t strange-looking.

    Sister Fisher continued, “To start it off, let’s learn a little bit about each other. We’ll start with Hayley.”

    Oh, no. Why does she have to start with me? I wondered. I just knew she was going to tell everyone that I was a mean girl who played tricks on all the grown-ups in the ward.

    While I wondered what awful things she was going to say, Sister Fisher picked up a brown paper bag and pulled out a baby picture of me. “Here is Hayley when she was just six months old. Her mother told me that she was the happiest baby in the world. Wasn’t she cute?”

    To my surprise, everyone agreed with Sister Fisher. I looked at the picture, and I had to admit that I had been a cute baby.

    Next Sister Fisher brought out a picture of Jesus with the little children. It hung in my room because it was a picture of my favorite Bible story. “This is a beautiful picture, isn’t it, class? Hayley thinks so, and her parents told me that this picture helps her remember to pray. Hayley even reminds her parents to say family prayer. I could use someone like that at my house.”

    I couldn’t believe it. Sister Fisher was saying nice things about me!

    Sister Fisher reached in and grabbed the next thing—my pink piggy bank. “Hayley likes this bank because it’s her favorite color. She saves tithing in it, and her dad said that sometimes she even pays a little extra.”

    Brian nudged me and wise-cracked, “Hey, Hayley-Whaley, next time why don’t you give your extra money to me?”

    Everyone laughed, like they always do at Brian’s awful nickname for me. Sister Fisher calmly said, “Well, Brian, maybe she will. Hayley is a generous, kind girl.”

    Sister Fisher knew just what to say to Brian. Amazing! Our last three teachers hadn’t known what to say to him.

    She did Brian’s sack next and showed a raggedy, blue teddy bear, a soccer ball, and some pictures and said good things about him. After Brian’s sack, she showed stuff from bags and said nice things about each of the other members of the class. Marci’s bag even included a picture of the two of us, taken last year at summer camp.

    Then Sister Fisher showed us her own bag! “This is a picture of my family,” she began. “I have two grown-up sons who live far away.”

    Sister Fisher was a mother! I couldn’t believe it.

    She showed other treasures from her bag. One was a dog-eared Book of Mormon she’d been given when she joined the Church four years ago. Another was an award she’d gotten for being the “Professor of the Year” at a college. And a shark’s tooth necklace!

    The off-white tooth dangled on the end of a gold chain. It was huge! I’d have hated to see the shark it came from. It was pretty, if you didn’t know it was a tooth.

    After she explained what it was, she said, “This necklace is special because my husband gave it to me before he died. He was fascinated by sharks. So whenever I look at this necklace, I think of him,”

    Marci and I exchanged glances. I guess it wasn’t so weird, after all. Actually, Sister Fisher wasn’t so weird, after all, even if she had frizzy orange hair. And I guess she really needed the thick glasses. And maybe there were reasons for the other things I’d thought were weird. She didn’t seem to think what I wear and do are weird—she didn’t even tell on me about the water fountain. She was just a person, like everybody else. In fact, she was a nice person. She made me feel good.

    When class was over, she hugged me and said, “Hayley, I’m happy I get to teach you.”

    “Thanks,” I said. “I’m glad you’re my new teacher.” And I meant it!

    Illustrated by Julie F. Young