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Penkava: Gee, Miss Landers, I got more questions

Published: Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 11:58 p.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014 12:07 a.m. CDT

Over the years I have written columns right before the start of school that have featured the wisdom of Miss Landers, Theodore (The Beaver) Cleaver’s teacher. Since not too many of us spent a year with a drop-dead gorgeous teacher who wore a captivating smile and a striped party dress to school every day, perhaps we’d appreciate an opportunity to benefit from some of her nifty educational insights.

This year I am featuring some questions from parents. So moms and dads, sit back and pretend you are looking into the captivating, twinkling eyes of your child’s new teacher. Listen as she eases your minds and melts your hearts …

Dear Miss Landers,

I just looked at the list of school supplies for this year. You could start a colony of starving artists with all of that stuff. Why do kids need so much? – Office Maxed-Out in Marengo

Dear Office Maxed-Out,

I disagree. A colony of starving artists would probably never use blunt nose safety scissors or hand sanitizer.

Dear Miss Landers,

How do I convince you that my child is the most important student in your class? – Helicopter Parent in Pistakee 

Dear Helicopter Parent,

Although I will have about 25 children in my class, all of them will be very important to me. I cannot single any one student out as being the most important, but I can promise you that I will keep a special eye on you.

Dear Miss Landers,

I’ve always wondered what it was like in the teacher’s lounge. Could you fill me in? – Curious in Chemung

Dear Curious,

Although the teacher’s lounge may seem mysterious and enticing, it is not all that extraordinary. The women teachers generally talk about kids, cramps and casseroles. The men teachers listen to the women and learn a lot.

Dear Miss Landers,

Is it true that some teachers like to pick on kids? – Suspicious in Sunnyside

Dear Suspicious,

That is correct. In fact, like most teachers, I love to pick on kids. I pick on them to give answers that make them feel smart. I pick on them to give them special assignments to make them feel important. I pick on them to say something nice to them when they’re having a bad day. I pick on them to learn a lesson from a bad choice to make them feel responsible. And I pick on them to stand between them and any danger that would harm them. 

Dear Miss Landers,

What if my child comes home with some crazy story about something you did in class? Should I believe them? – Just Wondering in Woodstock

Dear Just Wondering,

If you promise not to believe all their crazy stories about me, I promise not to believe all their crazy stories about you. 

Dear Miss Landers,

Can retired teachers who write newspaper columns come and audit your classes? – Still Captivated in Crystal Lake

Dear Still Captivated,

If that is you, Mr. Penkava, the answer is still no. Geesh.

Well, didn’t I tell you? Miss Landers is no-nonsense common sense wrapped in a polka dot party dress. It’s no wonder The Beaver thought she wasn’t goofy like the other teachers.

So here’s hoping that all of you parents, children and teachers have a great school year together! And when the school doors open this year and your child steps in, you parents can also step in as partners in education with their teachers.

As Miss Landers always said, “Parents should remember three important things: 1) Good communication is the lifeline between parents and teachers, 2) problems should always be resolved in a spirit of mildness and respect, and 3) the capital of North Dakota is Bismarck.” Beauty hath not spoken wiser words.

• Michael Penkava is a retired teacher who taught for 35 years at West Elementary School in Crystal Lake. He once visited Bismarck, North Dakota. And you know what? Miss Landers was right: It is the capitol! He can be reached at

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