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An Educator with a Lingering Impact - Mrs. Joan Storm

The start of third grade in September 1990 was not an easy year, which is an understatement in more ways than one! Due to having Asperger’s syndrome, I always had the biggest problems during transitional periods without fail. New schools and life phases always caused my case of Asperger’s syndrome to flare up like there was no tomorrow. Transitions always seemed synonymous with "fixing" what was working fine in the past. Bullying was common and friendships from the past evaporated because I was no longer a priority. Changes seemed more like a living nightmare as opposed to an adventure. Even as an adult, huge changes are feared like the plague to not usually having a strong start. When I began third grade back in 1990 I had to deal with a brand, new elementary school and the start of Hebrew School two days a week. In order to attend Hebrew School, I had to take a different bus to the Jewish Community Center and was not happy. It was the last place I wanted to be at the time. I remember being in tears the first day of third grade or sometime during the first week due to losing my lunchbox and thinking it was gone forever. It was a mountain of changes that were too much to handle.

When the world I once knew decided to disappear, there was always a tendency to engage in immature behavior in order to rebel against adults taking away everything that once provided comfort and familiarity. At the start of third grade I performed stunts such as moving my chair all around the classroom in order to make shadow hand puppets against the projector screen. When a little girl learned that she just had a new baby brother, I blurted out “I hope it came out retarded.” Perhaps I was jealous of the attention she was receiving or wanted the novelty of a new sibling in my own family. Either way, the inappropriate behavior came out with a vengeance due to the stress of that first year. What made a difference in surviving the disastrous start was my teacher, Mrs. Joan Storm who sadly passed away over a year ago after fighting cancer for many years.

Mrs. Storm must have been in her early forties at the time when she was my instructor and despite having chronic arthritis, she was extremely active with a plethora of passions. She was an experienced scuba diver and had just begun taking flying lessons at the time I had her as a teacher. Mrs. Storm caused me to become very enthusiastic about scuba diving, and I remember having my heart broken later that day after being told by my mother and father that I could not take scuba diving lessons on account of possibly drowning. Back in 2017 I finally fulfilled my goal of scuba diving by trying it for the first time in Bermuda and thought of Mrs. Storm. It is funny how her last name is “storm” because a storm of anguish and trouble is what happened at the beginning of third grade. But storms usually subside after a while and rarely go on forever..

For the rest of third grade it was like a dream and a fantasy all in one. My erratic behavior and outbursts completely disappeared. It was almost like the horrific start did not even happen. Mrs. Storm encouraged me to reach for the stars and even made me a helper in the classroom, which gave me a sense of self-esteem. My other bad starts did not have such a pretty outcome, and with others there was absolutely no chance of recovery. The damage was oftentimes irreversible or became worse long before it became better. My start to fourth grade was unbearable and the entire year of sixth grade was also very sad in the jungle of middle school. During these times, it was easier to return to the memories of that year with Mrs. Storm and hope that there would be similar experiences ahead. But nothing would ever be as hunky dory or euphoric as that third grade year with Mrs. Storm!


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