Head Home Previous Next Last

Elementary Years

Nida Spalding loves to read, travel, and spend time with family and friends. She believes that curiosity and persistence are key to happiness and success.

I still remember Larena Elementary School in Siquijor, an island in the Philippines. The wooden building with galvanized iron roof which housed the classrooms was next to the road going to the Governor's House. It was a long, rectangular, a one-story building. A chain-linked fence separated the building from the road. I still remember my teachers.

Mrs. Yurong, a cheerful lady with dark, curly hair, and a deep voice was my first-grade teacher. From her, I learned the alphabet in Visayan, the vernacular, A BA KA DA E GA HA. I learned how to write cursive. This was 1966.

On certain days, she made us listen to the Voice of America broadcast on the radio. "Please take your seats. Be quiet now." She adjusted the radio as best she could. The background music then a high-pitched woman's voice filled the room. I listened intently to the foreign woman's words. The reception was sometimes full of static. I don't remember anything from the broadcast. But my love for the sound of the English language began.

Mrs. Yurong taught us good manners and right conduct. One exercise was, one by one we got up and said, "Excuse me, Mrs. Yurong. May I leave the room?" She nodded. "Yes, you may." We walked to the door, turned around and asked. "May I come in?"  Mrs. Yurong said, "Certainly." And we said, "Thank you." She taught us never to lie, cheat or steal. "It doesn't cost anything to be nice," she would say.

Mrs. Medalle was my second-grade teacher. On the day I returned to school after being absent with the flu, I was nervous. Learning arithmetic via flashcards rattled my nerves. The drill was to compete with a classmate. We would stand up and start from the back of the room. Another pupil flashed the cards. I looked quickly and gave the answer. For every correct answer, I took a step forward. 2+4 equals 6.  10-5 equals 5. I did fine. But then Mrs. Medalle gave the class a test . . . in multiplication and division?  Huh? I had not learned them yet. I began to shake. My fear of numbers started then.



My third-grade teacher was Miss Cuaresma. She was also my aunt, my Mom's sister. I called her Mandie. Starting in third grade, the medium of instruction was English. Miss Cuaresma made sure we pronounced English words correctly.

I felt special---she made me memorize short stories to recite at end of the school year. The first one was titled, "Bagol, A Five-Centavo Coin." After that, I became known as a "Declaimer," someone who was pretty good at declamation. In Northern California, though, the word is obscure. I never heard it used in school, at work, or in casual conversation. Consulting Google yielded the Merriam Webster definition of the verb declaim as "to speak rhetorically, to recite in elocution." Thinking about it now, I was merely telling a story. The audience loved it. Mandie made sure my enunciation was flawless. My facial expressions, body movements and hand gestures had to be exact and appropriate. "Practice makes perfect," Mandie reminded me.

My second declamation piece was about a boy named Crispin who was sent to the principal's office for hitting another boy who had made fun of his parents. The piece was a tear-jerker. In telling the story, I managed to cry which made the audience cry every time. I was invited to perform the piece at a school function in the next big town and got to ride in the Governor's AMC Rambler to get there.

My love of learning and language was set in place. I began to flourish in the third grade.

~ Nida Spalding






Last page
Next page
Previous page
Home page