Miss Gilette’s Bible Class

I was sure I wanted to be a Bible Club Movement teacher like Miss G when I grew up. I wanted to have a wooden tripod I would carry between classes as well as a folded board covered with plain flannel with a sheets of flannel picture backgrounds clipped to it. Miss G also carried some of her hundreds of pre-printed paper dolls with strips of flannel pasted on their backs.
She organized the paper dolls for their timely appearance in the story. The story of Moses leading the children of Israel out of the Promised Land, included Moses in many ages and poses: a child in a basket, a young man fleeing Egypt, a shepherd watching his sheep, startled by the burning bush, an older man standing before Pharaoh, carrying a rod, holding the rod upright, sitting and holding the rod over the Red Sea.
Miss G dedicated her life to teaching the Bible to young children with flannel graph story boards, Bible drills, colorful song books with large words and pictures and patiently listening to youngsters stumble their way through the Bible memorization program.
It took a long time to get through the stories of Moses. Each week Miss G flipped the draping flannel back grounds from the palm trees of Egypt, to Pharaoh’s palace and the humble interior of the Israelite’s home and adroitly placed Moses in front of the crowds of people or before Pharaoh’s throne as she told the story. We listened eagerly to her tell the weekly story.
Besides stories and songs, Miss G taught us the order of the books of the Bible and then practiced having us find each book with Bible drills. We raised Bibles over our heads and waited impatiently for Miss G to say, “charge!” At her signal, Bibles swooped down and we fanned pages until we found the book, chapter and verse and spat out, “And God said…”
The first to get the verse went to the front of the class and waited through half a dozen more rounds to be in the day’s play-off. During the end-of-the-year program we showed off everything we had learned. I wrote a play for my classmates about the Israelites leaving the land of Egypt and wandering in the desert. Tiny bits of paper scattered over the church carpet served as manna.
Miss G also encouraged us to memorize verses for prizes awarded after a specific number of verses were successfully memorized. Children who finished an entire year’s worth of memory work earned a free trip to camp. Everyone tried. Many received a pretty plaque with a Bible verse on it or a small New Testament.
Somewhere at the house, I have a framed certificate testifying to my completion of four or five years of Bible memorization. It only took about that many years – and more – of studying during the morning and afternoon bus ride to school to learn all those verses. One year, as I quoted my way through the book of James, Miss G made weekly appointments to meet me in a quiet place, outside of class, to listen to me say verses.
I was one of hundreds of children she taught each week in her 40 years of teaching. I didn’t realize she remembered me, until last month when I met my cousin in Arizona. Sometimes, after a day of teaching, Miss G stops by the family farm and chats with my cousin and aunt. When she found out my cousin and I would be seeing each other Miss G hand-made a gift just for me and asked my cousin to take it to me.
Thanks, Miss G, I’ll start enjoying the gift … as soon as I memorize another 20 verses.
(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times.)