Barbara Bush and her dog Mini Me were greeted by Brewer Community School students after she and Maine First Lady Anne LePage visted the school on Monday, September 17, 2012. Credit: Kevin Bennett

Brewer Community School students lost a special friend when former first lady Barbara Bush passed away last month. Over the course of eight years, Bush met with third-graders a couple of times a year using Skype. In fact, Brewer students taught her how to Skype. She then made connections with others around the country and world using this type of technology. Bush even made a surprise visit to the school on Sept. 17, 2012.

That day was a highlight in my career as an educator. I was a third-grade teacher in Brewer, and I feel so honored to have had the opportunity to learn from someone who did so much throughout her lifetime for our country. I especially admire Bush’s commitment to family literacy and the health care of children.

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After her passing, I began reviewing videos of our Skype lessons. Students would share what they were learning, and Bush always showed a sincere appreciation for their work. Every Skype visit ended with time for questions followed by a little advice to live by.

I’d like to share some of our former first lady’s words of wisdom:

“Do something every single day to make the world better.”

“Work hard, read, be kind to others and love your family.”

“Faith, family and friends are the most important things in life. Be a good son or daughter, value and nourish your friends. Be a good friend, and know that God loves you, and I do, too.”

“If you work hard at everything you do; one of you may become the president, boy or girl.”

“My dream is for peace on earth; that means no bullying. You can’t have peace if you are bullying. My dream is for every boy and girl in America to learn to read. My dream is for families to eat together and read together, and for you to love your neighbors. I have a lot of dreams, and most of my dreams have come true in my family.”

“Please tell your parents not to smoke. Smoking causes cancer. It’s bad for your heart and lungs. It’s also bad for the people around you. And besides that, it makes you smell very bad.”

“I would like to ask you and your classmates to do two things. First, help someone every day. Help someone cross the street. Help your classmate who has a problem. Stop someone from being a bully. Just be good to someone every day: your mothers, your fathers, your brothers, your sisters. And the other thing I’d like to ask you to do is to keep a diary. Let your mother and father know that nobody can read it, not them or anybody else, just you. I’ve kept a diary for years, and I love to look back and see what dumb things I thought or what good things I thought. It’s a very wonderful thing to do. So help someone and keep a diary. And don’t forget to read a book!”

This last piece of advice inspired my students to create a diary club. The students really took Bush’s words to heart. They knew she was special.

As everyone knows, Bush said exactly what she thought and had a wonderful sense of humor. I both chuckled and wept as I watched each treasured video.

Once a student asked Bush why she always wore pearls. She replied, “I wear pearls because I love them, and because they hide the wrinkles on my neck.”

I will hold these memories in my heart for the rest of my life, and make a conscious effort to live by her words. I hope that all the Brewer students who had the opportunity to meet this incredible woman will as well.

Cherrie MacInnes is a former third-grade teacher at Brewer Community School. She currently teaches the fourth-grade at Pond Cove Elementary School in Cape Elizabeth. She was the 2016 Penobscot County Teacher of the Year, and a finalist for the 2017 Maine Teacher of the Year.

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