“TEACHERS ARE A dime a dozen.”

What? What did he say? Did he really say that? Paul who?

I think somebody made that up for him. Nobody’s dumb enough to say something like that. These days, we post-millennials call that a “meme” or a “trope.” In the governor’s foggy past, it was just a throw-away line that meant “something cheap or useless,” as in “Yo mama’s a dime a dozen.”

In Compton, that can get your fingers cut off — and if you include a sister, all of your toes.

In today’s economy you couldn’t find anything that comes for a dime a dozen. I can understand his usage of the phrase. In his day, a dime meant a great deal to a lot of people as in the song of his time, “Buddy, can you spare a dime?”

Remember that other great line? “An apple for the teacher.” Sure you do. Many of you even brought the teacher an apple.


Today, I’m bringing an apple to a few teachers who touched my life and really made a difference, even propelled me to the rock-star status I enjoy at Starbucks.

A Granny Smith for my first teacher, Sister Rosanna of Sts. Mary and Joseph School in South St. Louis, Missouri.

I had breezed through several sisters from kindergarten to the fourth grade when Rosanna and I came upon one another.

She was surprised and thrilled that I was reading at a much, much higher level, and she took it upon herself to walk me down to the Carondelet Public Library and get me my first library card and choose a book. I chose one that deeply affected my life, “Paddle-to-the-Sea,” by Holling Clancy Holling.

I hope Sister knows, wherever she is now, that my own book is in the stacks at that very library for another boy to find.

A McIntosh for Mary Gorman. When my mother and I moved and I had to leave Sister Rosanna, I was enrolled in the Virginia Avenue Public School. Mary was a gorgeous red-haired Irish girl, a beginning teacher in her 20s, I think, who always wore Irish clan plaid jackets and skirts.


She could see at once how displaced and lonely I was, and for weeks after I started there, she would bring her lunch tray over to the table where I sat alone and eat and chat with me.

Mary didn’t like apples and always left hers on my tray. I was only there for a year, but she made that year bearable for a lost boy. Isn’t that what teachers are supposed to do?

A Golden Delicious for Mr. Beers at the Overlake School in Bellevue, Washington. I was sent to live with my World War II veteran brother in Bellevue in 1947 with the idea that he would make “a man of me.” He and his new young wife were building their home, and I became conscripted labor.

I hated it there, and in Mr Beers’ English class I would sit staring out the window dreaming of escape.

One day he assigned us to write a short story. I dashed one off just to get out of there.

The next day Mr. Beers kept me after class. I feared it was the end of me, but he sat in the seat next to me and said, “I thought I had lost you sitting back here staring out the window. But I read your story, and now I know you were just writing. You’re a writer, aren’t you? You’ll need some work on your punctuation, but you’re a writer.”


Thank you, Mr. Beers. I am, and thanks in large part to you.

I know you’re on the other side, but you’re surely a teacher there. After all, what is heaven without a teacher?

And of course there is She, my teacher, who has cleaned up my punctuation, inspired and encouraged me.

If not for her, I would still be back in Hollywood, struggling with meaningless screenplays.

To She, I give an Ambrosia, with 17 grams of sugar per serving, the sweetest apple of all.

Dime a dozen? Mr. LePage, you’d best steer clear of any teacher carrying a ruler.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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