A Gift Given Back To Audie Cornish's Teacher

As part of NPR's partnership with StoryCorps' National Day of Listening, host Audie Cornish sits down with her former high school history teacher, Lynne Ramsay.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

My next guest taught me how to solve all kinds of puzzles of history. Lynn Harding was my history teacher in high school back in Randolph, Massachusetts; and my current events teacher and my homeroom teacher. Well, we spent a lot of time together and our conversation is part of the StoryCorps National Day of Listening Project this year.

We're hoping you might also sit down with a teacher on the day after Thanksgiving and listen. It's not something I'd really done before with Mrs. Harding because, well, she was really tough on us.

LYNN HARDING: Some said my name was Hard not Harding.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HARDING: But, you know, we were taught you don't smile until November. Get them under your control because then the learning will take place if you don't have to spend all your time on those extraneous factors, such as discipline. In you case - in your classes, of course, that wasn't a problem.

CORNISH: Do you actually remember me?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HARDING: Of course I do.

CORNISH: What kind of kid I was?

HARDING: I remember what kind of kid you were. I remember your mother coming Parents Night and saying, Well, that isn't good enough. And I said, well, that's what I've been telling her. I think you had a B. And I pushed you, didn't I?

CORNISH: You pushed me a lot.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HARDING: Yes, that's what I remember. But it didn't harm you in any way we can see.

CORNISH: One thing I remember about Randolph is, when I was living there, there was a lot of change in terms of the racial demographics of the town. When I first moved there, there were a couple of black kids and by the time I left, you know, there were dozens of languages spoken in the school and...

HARDING: Yes.

CORNISH: ...it was really a big change. What was it like for you, as a teacher, to adjust to that?

HARDING: Well, when I began teaching in Randolph it was, I think, 65 percent Jewish. And when I left Randolph High School in 1999, when I retired, it was majority minority - including Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, and then we had lots from all the different islands. So we had Jamaicans and Barbadians and Puerto Ricans and Trinidad - Trinidadians? I'm not sure about that one.

But I remember one of the last years I was the Honor Society adviser. One of the things you had to do was call up the inductees and I said we will have no name mispronounced. You go to each of these inductees, you ask them how to pronounce their name, and you pronounce it back to them before you do it onstage, so that we would make them feel respected.

CORNISH: Why did you adjust to it, you think?

HARDING: Well, those were my students.

CORNISH: Do you miss teaching?

HARDING: Teaching, yes. I retired. I was only 55 when I retired but I really wasn't tired of teaching, of getting up there in the class. I was tired of correcting papers, frankly. Every vacation, the term papers were piled on the couch and you know how many essays you wrote. Well...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HARDING: ...you didn't want to write them and I didn't want to correct them. But we both knew that that was the way you learn.

CORNISH: I remember we did actually connect at one point after high school. I came back. Do you remember this?

HARDING: Yes. Did you know you gave me a book? I brought it with me.

CORNISH: You did?

HARDING: Do you remember it?

CORNISH: I do. I think...

HARDING: Autographed: Mrs. Harding, a little history you helped me to uncover. I learned more from you than you'll ever know. Audie Cornish.

I tell everybody, you know, do you listen to NPR? Audie Cornish, that was my student, you know? Everybody says, oh, really - wow. So you should be proud of that.

CORNISH: It's paid off now, thanks to you. So I appreciate it.

HARDING: Well, I'm glad to have had this opportunity to talk to you.

CORNISH: Lynn Harding, now retired, lives near Albany, New York. Did I just mispronounce Albany?

HARDING: Yes, it's Allbany(ph).

CORNISH: It's Allbany(ph).

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: Sorry about that.

HARDING: That's okay.

CORNISH: It's been awhile but she's still my teacher. My conversation with Mrs. Harding is part of the StoryCorps National Day of Listening Project. Find out how to do an interview of your own at NPR.org.

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