DEAR ABBY: My wife, our 7-year-old daughter, Silvia, and I arrived in Los Angeles in June 1965. At the time, Silvia had less than three months of first grade and didn't speak a word of English. We enrolled her in elementary school in Alhambra, Calif., where she was placed in a class taught by an older, conservative teacher who had little patience. The teacher would yell at Silvia for not understanding English.
As you can imagine, taking Silvia to school each day became a Greek tragedy. She would cry from the time she got into the car and continued as she walked through the school's gates. She also cried at home.
Fortunately, our daughter was transferred into another class that was taught by a younger teacher, Miss Luke. Miss Luke didn't understand a word of Spanish, but she would wait at the gate for our arrival in the morning, take Silvia's hand and walk with her all the way to the classroom. She spoke English to her in the most loving way, in a sweet, soft voice. Within a week, our daughter was actually happy to be going to school. In a month, she was speaking with her new friends in English!
Miss Luke eventually married and became Mrs. Mertha. If she reads this, we want her to know that Silvia, who showed talent for both writing and art, decided to follow in her footsteps and become a teacher like her. Although Silvia has been offered higher administrative positions, she's decided to remain in the classroom with her "little ones."
Bless you, Mrs. Mertha. You are living proof that bureaucratic laws are not a substitute for love and affection. -- RUDOLPH SPADANO, HACIENDA HEIGHTS, CALIF.
DEAR RUDOLPH: Thank you for sharing the touching story about a significant chapter in your daughter's life. It teaches two lessons -- that a dedicated teacher can make a profound difference in a child's life, and that it's not only what you say, but also how you say it that conveys a message.