This person was the person who helped me with being an introvert in the midst of a middle school mine field. Mrs. Rodriguez had a mega-watt smile and piled up bleached out blonde hair. Her cherry red lips would often express an entire range of emotions within one class period, and watching her read poetry was like viewing the ever-changing tide of the ocean.
Her spindly hands were always shifting the breeze that came in through the window, as she gestured the events in the story or her outrage at a character that did the unexpected or dishonorable action. The one thing that stands out more than fifteen years after she graced my timid mind with her presence, is the way she sneezed. My God, this woman sounded like a mac truck driver that slammed the door on her adenoids. AAAHHH-CHOOOOOO with a slight whistle at the end, she would fix her hair and wait for one of us to say “bless you”. Her long graceful index finger would push up her tortoise shell glasses up her thin nose bridge, and she would smirk silently with those scarlet lips, and wait.
Allergy season was a jumble of nerves for all the little seventh graders who took English class with her. Her kind nature and expressive demeanor endeared her to me. It helped that she was the epitome of English Teacher fashion at that time, pencil skirt and blouses in silk with cravats.
She would walk with grace between our rows of desks as she checked our work, and the soft click-click of her low sensible heels on the wood floor soothed me. Her entire classroom soothed me, and thus began my love of literature. I was not the student who clicked with the loud coaches, ex-cheerleader style women, fashion divas, or strict dictators of science or math. I waited with unshed tears, from the atmospheres of those other scary subjects and teachers, and smiled instantly when I walked in and she sneezed at the chalk dust.
Mrs. Rodriguez helped me build my own self-worth and character. I blossomed in English and became more social, I even joined the UIL event she sponsored, Literary Criticism.