Dear Mrs. Von Winbush,
It has been over 30 years since I first walked into your Kindergarten class. It’s been well over 30 years since I came to school on the second day, got lost and walked the halls calling, “Mrs. Von Winbush, where are you?” And you popped your head out of the door saying, “I’m right here, Amy.”
It has been over 30 years since you sparked my love of learning and knowledge. My love of schooling has waxed and waned, but never my love of learning. I have you to thank for that.
I did not know that our class was a small part of history until I was old enough to study history. At five, I did not understand that you were the first African American teacher in my elementary school. I didn’t understand that the schools in Nashville, Tennessee were finally integrating. I would not have been able to comprehend the barriers you were overcoming or the walls you were breaking down. I only knew that I loved you, and what I saw reflected in your beautiful eyes was acceptance, care and delight.
You were one of the first people who taught me, just by being you, that love does not comply with restrictions, boundaries or social conventions. I’m sure I was an astute enough child to realize that there were differences in our skin colors, and that you didn’t look like most of the people I knew at the time, but I loved you more because of it.
Thank you, Mrs Von Winbush. Thank you for giving me a bold start in life. Thank you for setting me on a path of acceptance. Just my memory of you has helped me to resist the prejudice and intolerance and hatred I’ve seen in so many places since our time together. I struggle to live up to the lessons you taught me, but I will be forever grateful that I started my education – in and out of the classroom – with you.
Amy Busse Perkins
The 1970 -71 Kindergarten Class of Burton Elementary School