As another school year comes to an end, my mind goes back to my elementary years and Miss Jorgensen, my third grade teacher. She not only taught me the required subjects, but she would frequently tell me how important I was and how much I was loved.
It was a magical year. In fourth grade, I would visit Miss Jorgensen often. On my first day of 5th grade, I was sad to see that her name was no longer on the list of teachers. I soon caught wind that Miss Jorgensen was actually married over the summer and had become Mrs. Christensen. I was so happy for her and especially excited because my younger sister was able to be in her class. Later that year, Mrs. Christensen went on maternity leave and didn’t return to our elementary school. I eventually heard that she had retired from teaching.
Mrs. Christensen’s unique teaching style and uplifting messages truly made an impression that stayed with me throughout my life. In fact, when I was in my 30's, I actually started to search for her so I could thank her for her profound influence in my life. After looking around Utah for many years, I finally accepted the fact that I couldn’t find her.
I'm so glad I was blessed with the opportunity to tell her how much she had influenced my life.
One October morning, I found myself in Fillmore, Utah, getting ready to give a special drug-prevention assembly for elementary students from around Millard County. It was Red Ribbon Week. Right before my presentation began, I saw an elderly lady herding kids from a school bus into the high school auditorium. When she turned around, I couldn't believe my eyes. It was her… my third grade teacher! Her hair was now white and her skin was wrinkled, but I knew it was her. I immediately called out, "Mrs. Christensen!" To my amazement, she turned around. I think I froze for an instant as I processed the reality that after all this time, I was standing right in front of her. It was hard to believe… and there she was, looking at me with that familiar expression I recognized from long ago.
I ran over to her and called out something that now seems silly, "Remember me?" She stopped, looked into my eyes, and smiled. She then replied with confidence, "Stevie James"! I was amazed that she recognized the “adult me” and even remembered my name. We visited for what seemed to be a moment frozen in time. She told me about her life and wanted to know about mine. I shared how I had been searching for her and was finally able to let her know how she had influenced my life. Her last words to me were, “I always knew you’d make it big. I'm so proud of you..." I dedicated my assembly that morning to my third grade teacher. I had never thought that giving school assemblies meant that I had “made it big”, but somehow she felt that way. Afterward, I said goodbye and went to my car. Driving away, tears came to my eyes as I mentally checked off that bucket list item, “Find Mrs. Christensen”.
Years later, I heard that she had passed. I’ll never forget that experience and I'm so glad I was blessed with the opportunity to tell her how much she had influenced my life. To this day, every time I give an assembly, I still have that same feeling, knowing that my third grade teacher was proud of me.
In Loving Memory of Shirley Jorgensen Christensen
Steve James is the Executive Director of Uplift Families, founder of Resilient Utah and CEO of Something Good Inc. and Steve James Productions. He is an Executive Producer, recording artist and songwriter, nationally known for his award-winning children’s music series “Something Good for Kids”.
He has produced shows across the nation and beyond, performing for millions with his accomplished wife, Lisa. A dynamic motivational keynote speaker, Steve has traveled extensively throughout the US and Canada, presenting for corporate, community, educational, non-profit, and government groups. He has served on various local and national boards.
Steve and Lisa have four amazing children.