I was lucky enough to have a good high school experience at Catherine McAuley High School, which was a perfect fit for me. So I was hit hard by the one-two punch of learning that the school (most recently known as The Maine Girls Academy) would be closing for good this summer and that a former drama teacher there has been accused of sexual misconduct.

I don’t want to talk about that man and what he may or may not have done – other than to say that if three different employees report a colleague to the child-abuse hotline, it’s fair to suspect that something has gone seriously wrong.

The educators who show up in the news most often are nothing like the teachers I had at Catherine McAuley, and I would rather talk about them instead.

Teachers like Lynne Erkkinen. I took her creative writing class two years in a row, my junior and senior year (shout-out to my guidance counselor Linda Freeman for allowing me to register for “Creative Writing 2,” a class which did not technically exist) and during the second year, she let me do pretty much whatever I wanted – which means I produced a terrible teen novel, several awful poems, and developed the writing skills that eventually led me to become a columnist. She was also the drama teacher, and helped the school produce two plays that I wrote. I would not be The Maine Millennial without her.

Brigid Franey, who was my chemistry teacher and an assistant cross-country coach; I was terrible at both of those things but I found out that as long as I could keep up with Ms. Franey on training runs, she had to answer my questions and tutor me on the move. Not only did I pass chemistry (and I still have a scar from one particularly fun lab experiment) but I was in the best shape of my life that semester. And, in a very small-town-Maine twist of fate, she was also my little sister’s chemistry teacher, eight years after me, in an entirely different school district. (My sister was, of course, a much better student than I was.)

Mr. Wagner – affectionately referred to by many students as “Papa Wags,” a name my mother still remembers him by – taught U.S. History and AP Government classes; thus sending me to my tragic fate of being an amateur political wonk. On our first day of classes, he told us that by the end of the semester, we were going to have learned enough about our country and how it functions to be “professional citizens.” If every high school in the country had a Joe Wagner on staff, I guarantee voter turnout would be way up and gridlocking partisanship would be way down. He is the reason I carry a copy of the Constitution in my purse.


Tim Donovan, also known as Don, Donny, and T-Don, was my track and cross-country coach for four years, and even though I was never championship material, he treated me like I was. He cared just as much about my race results and injuries as he did the faster runners. And during my last two years on the team, he actually figured out a way to harness my one advantage – sheer, unrelenting stubbornness – into a way to score points for our team. (It involved running the two-mile at all the track meets. Did I complain along the way? Absolutely.)

There was Mrs. Ponzetti, who managed to find reasons to justify showing us the movie “Mean Girls” in both religion and psychology class. Sister Ruth, who let me and my best friend be lab partners for dissection, even though I’m sure her common sense knew better (not to mention all the giggling that came from our table). Sister Carol, the coolest basketball-playing nun you could ever hope to meet. Mrs. Locker, who let us run wild for our poetry project sophomore year. Mrs. Redlon, who once used a piece of my writing to show the whole class what an A+ essay looked like (I have never forgotten that moment). Ms. Worthing, who let me have the duct-tape covered laptop case that nobody else wanted (I still have that laptop case).

And, of course, the one and only Sister Edward Mary. Smart, stern, and always fair. She knew every student’s name and could command the attention of an entire auditorium without raising her voice above a polite conversational tone. (Being a habit-wearing nun of the old guard may have helped with that.) Our mascot may have been the Lion, but our symbol was Sister Edward Mary.

To all the teachers I was lucky to have, including ones I didn’t have room to thank by name: Thank you. To all the teachers unlucky to have me, especially math teachers: I’m sorry, I know I could be a pain, you guys were definitely not paid enough, and I am afraid that I am still really bad at math.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:


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