Mrs. Marguerite Miller

John W. Pinkerton

I recently saw a notice that one of my high school teachers was ill.  I think I saw it on Facebook in a note posted by one of my high school classmates.  That notice got me to thinking about my high school teachers.

I dug out my old high school yearbook, the Kepi.  I still have the 1959 and 1960 Kepis.  For years I didn't know that these books had survived the years of my parents moving from place to place, but I discovered the books at my mother's a few years ago.

As I recall, Pineville High School was established in 1952; I entered it as a freshman in
1955.  Up until the building of a high school in Pineville, the students on the Pineville side of the Red River had to travel in buses for many miles to get to Bolton High School or Peabody High School in Alexandria. I spent my first six weeks of the ninth grade in a junior high in New Orleans.  Thank the Lord, He took mercy on me and guided my family back to Pineville.  Also, thank the Lord that He allowed me to remain there through my senior year in '59-'60.

I loved my time in high school.  I wasn't a big man on campus.  I wasn't an athlete or an intellectual giant (I think I finished 14th in my class of about 155.).  I was a nerd, but nerds were well accepted there.  As one of my classmates said at our fifty year reunion, “We were kind to each other.”

One reason I loved my time there was my teachers.  Looking back to my yearbooks, a lot of them I don't recognize, but a few I do: Mr. Keith, Mr. Bennett, Mr. Millet, Mr. Josserand, Miss Mosley, Mr. Rice, Mr. Forrest, Mr. Clark, Mr. Cappel, Mr. Beall, Miss Connely, and Mrs. Marguerite W. Miller.  I've noticed that I remember the male teachers more than the female teachers.  I guess I had more of these as teachers.  However, the one I remember most fondly is Mrs. Marguerite Miller.

I took speech from Mrs. Miller.  I think it was my senior year.  As I recall, I had a choice of taking English IV or speech.  I opted for speech, but went on to major in English at LSU.  Odd, but true.

I've never regretted choosing speech.


When I was about ten or so, I, apparently, had a speech problem.  I think I slurred my words.  My parents sent me to a private teacher to attempt to improve my speech.  I barely remember it, and I have no idea if the teacher improved my speech.

I think I chose speech over English IV to avoid English IV, not to improve my speech.  But in spite of my questionable motivation, I did learn about speech and even developed an interest in public speaking.  Heck, I learned about Demosthenes and even practiced speaking with marbles in my mouth.  Did I mention that I was a nerd?

Unlike other speech courses I've observed through the years as a teacher, Mrs. Miller assigned the students one speech after another.  Thanks to her, I even became part of the competitive speaking team which visited nearby colleges to compete against other high school kids.  My specialty was “after dinner” speaking which meant that the subjects were usually humorous.  Even then I thought I was funny.

Mrs. Miller was sponsor of the Drama Club.  The first year as an actor I was given the role of ship's steward, and I had one brief appearance on stage, and I had one line to deliver: “All ashore that's going ashore.”  I was brilliant.  Unfortunately, Mrs. Miller cast me in a lead role the next year in, I think, a play entitled “Penny.”  I was Penny's father and had a couple of pretty long pieces of dialogue which I delivered with all the acting skills of a zombie chimpanzee.  Heck, I felt fortunate just to remember my lines.  I was such a nerd.

I learned two things for sure in my time with Mrs. Miller: I was no actor and I should not pursue a career involving public speaking.  But learning what one is not good at is just as important as learning what areas in which one might be able to succeed.

Mostly I remember my fear each time it came my turn to speak.  It was so bad that I even tried self-hypnosis to try to help me settle down.  By the way, this worked for me, but I tended to apply it to the point that I lost all interest in what I was saying.  Oh, well.  But, I think, Mrs. Miller helped me overcome my fears, not completely, but to a great degree.

I think the thing that has pretty well cured me of my fear of public speaking is old age.  Folks eventually reach a point of not giving a damn what others may think of them…well, that and Mrs. Miller.

Bless her heart.

As I recall, she seemed to always have a supportive, positive attitude mixed with a sense of humor which was helpful to even a nerd like myself.

Although I taught English, not speech, I tried to work in at least one speech each year for my students hopefully to help one of the nerds I was teaching.  When I scheduled these speeches, I always thought of Mrs. Miller.

I didn't know if she had survived to this day, so I emailed a friend in Pineville who would probably know.  She told me that Mrs. Miller had passed away several years ago.  I hate it when I'm late saying “Thank you.”  I guess I shouldn't be surprised; she was a veteran teacher when I was in her class and I'm 74 years old now.

Late or not, thank you, Mrs. Miller.



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