On my first day of fourth grade, I was struck by how squat Miss Ramage was. She couldn’t have been more than five feet tall, and she had one of those stomachs that you had to tuck into your pants like it was a fleshy shirttail. She also had a fat face, but her face wasn’t ‘cute fat’ like a baby, or Adele. It looked more like a toad that was bitter with the way its life had turned out and took to booze and food to numb the pain. Is there a word for that kind of fat?
I wish I could tell you that if you looked beyond her appearance, you would find a beautiful prisoner locked within that flabby prison. However, Miss Ramage wasn’t a popular teacher. Actually, that is an understatement. Miss Ramage was so reviled, that muscular dystrophy walked to end her that year. You don’t exactly endear yourself to people when you tell your students that they’re the worst you have ever had and you (allegedly) slap a child in the face with a book. At “Meet the Parents Night,” our parents stormed that school like they were taking the Bastille. They wanted her head, but the principal of Hampton Elementary was in his final year before retirement. He didn’t want to deal with this problem; he just wanted to hit the links. And so, “Miss Rampage,” as we had begun calling her, was to stick around a little longer.
As unpopular as Miss Ramage was, she did have a very small group of loyal followers—the nerds. We loved her for two main reasons. The first reason was that she loved smart kids and showed them preferential treatment. She usually addressed students with stern barks and orders, but she reserved a much a gentler tone for the best students in the class. If you were a math geek, she would make up fun little puzzles for you. If you liked science she’d suggest a cool household experiment. If you were interested in the history of the Vikings, she would find you a great book on that very subject. I got beat up all the time, so she would let me stay in during recess and write stories that she would edit and praise.
The second reason we loved her was because she punished the very children who tormented us every day. One day, my personal bully Kevin Ekstrom smacked me across the face with my Harry Potter book. Before the first drop of blood had time to fall from my nose and onto my Velcro Ninja Turtle shoes, Miss Ramage had dragged him into the supply closet, and locked him in. We practically gave her a standing ovation. It is the first time I can remember experiencing schadenfreude. In retrospect, the closet doesn’t sound so bad. To us fourth graders however, it was like sending him to the Gulag. Pretty soon, our classroom bullies thought twice about pummelling us or stealing our Pokémon cards. For a short while, we lived an Edenic existence.
Sadly, however, just as the unpopular students were starting to develop a healthy self-esteem, Miss Ramage announced she would no longer be teaching us. Cheers resounded throughout the class, but the freaks and geeks weren’t cheering. We were devastated. It was like that scene in the Lion King, when Simba finds his father Mufasa trampled to death by a stampede of wildebeest. We were like five brainy little Simbas, prodding the corpse, vainly pleading with our fallen protector to wake up. But she never did wake up.
I came home from school that day a broken man. As soon as my mom asked me how my day was I started crying. She stroked my forehead and said “it’s okay Jer Bear, she’s gone now! You don’t have to worry anymore.” She didn’t understand that my worrying had only just begun. Miss Rampage was the best teacher I ever had.