Sunday, January 22, 2012

R.I.P. Alice Springer, my high school Spanish teacher

Dr. Alice Springer
Below I have copied and pasted a 2008 tribute I wrote to Dr. Alice Springer, my high school Spanish teacher at Montgomery Bell Academy. At that time, the MBA headmaster had called upon alumni to send in a note of appreciation for Dr. Springer's retirement ceremony. I submitted the tribute by e-mail and was also fortunate to attend the retirement ceremony and congratulate her in person.

A few days ago, on the eve of my departure to South America for work, I learned that Dr. Springer had passed away.

Her memorial service yesterday at Second Presbyterian Church reminded me that I am not the only young man whose life trajectory was moved because of her influence and inspiration. In the eulogy, we heard the story of Taylor Barnett, one of Dr. Springer's former students who uses Spanish in the practice of medicine. As a result, Taylor is able to connect with patients like Rosa, with whom he prayed the Lord's Prayer in Spanish as she faced the birth of a child with Down's Syndrome. Taylor told Rosa "how he had come to speak Spanish, and why he was doing this work" - and Rosa said, in Spanish, "God bless you."

I wish God's blessings over Dr. Springer now that she is in His hands. She made possible so many of my own connections, adventures, and blessings.

Rest in peace.

from:    John Lamb
to:      Brad Gioia
date:    Fri, Jan 11, 2008
subject: tribute to Dr. Springer 
So much of my life pivots around Dr. Alice Springer's Spanish classes at MBA. I simply would not have found my wife, my job, and my current place in the community if I had received only a passing knowledge of Spanish at MBA, which of course would be both unthinkable and unacceptable under Dr. Springer. 
By directing us to study "religiously," Dr. Springer engaged her students. She sagely warned us that any lesson we missed for lack of study would not as easily be recovered in the future. Her demanding standard was not her only tool, however; Dr. Springer complemented her instruction with a dry wit and exuberant laugh which enriched every classroom experience. Using only three short academic years, Dr. Springer left me connected to the Spanish language forever and enabled me to cultivate precious relationships beyond the English-speaking world. 
Dr. Springer's AP exam prep vaulted me into mid-level courses at Texas Christian University, where I devoured the rest of the instruction available to me and ended up with a major in Spanish. I sought after volunteer work with Spanish-speaking constituencies. After college, I moved to Chile for two years, where I picked up not only Chilean slang, but also my Chilean wife. In law school I clerked for the U.S. Immigration Court, and as a practicing attorney I now work directly with my company's Latin American subsidiaries and law firms. I serve on the board of a local Hispanic family advocacy non-profit, and I maintain, an online repository of news related to the Hispanic members of the Nashville community. Our family has attended a Spanish-language church here, and my three-year-old daughter speaks Spanish and English. She asks to visit Chile, where her mother and grandmother were born. 
All of the joys I describe above sprang from Dr. Springer's modest Carter Hall classroom, where I first took my seat as a sophomore to tackle a subject about which I knew very little. I consider it muy buena suerte y una muy rica bendiciĆ³n to have been so well taught and so profoundly inspired by the unique, dedicated, and masterful instructor Alice Springer.

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