Remarks on a teaching legacy… An Ode to Ruth Uyesugi


The Paolite Staff asked our readers to write in their thoughts and feelings about the Ruth Uyesugi Dedication. Below are the responses we received. If you would like to add your own comment, please feel free to do so in the box below.

I grew up across the street from Mrs. U and her daughter Ann was a good friend. Mrs. U encouraged my song writing, poems, etc. She made me see my creative side and didn’t let me get away with feeling bad about myself. She was so much fun and listened to all my problems. She involved me in talent shows from the time I was 6 years old and up. Had me drawing props for plays, and so much more. She is the reason I love Falkner, Hemmingway, and all the old authors. Not only my neighbor, school teacher, Sunday school teacher, she was my mentor. I loved and will always love her. What a terrific woman!
Debbie (Wininger) Giles, class of 68

Roger and I have learned a lot from Mrs. U. Here are a few things…We learned to always carry two pencils. While I am no longer in the journalism field, I still carry this advice with we when going out to conduct case meetings in my current job. We learned to “speak up” while on stage. She taught us to not settle for almost reaching a goal. She taught us there were no bad Paolite jokes and to always “put them on the hook.” She taught us that our mistakes can always be forgiven. She guided us in our careers and in addition to that was the matchmaker who got us together.
Valerie and Roger Moon

This is tough for me.  As a senior in Mrs. U’s class I took for granted her genius. Looking back, I thought she was a little crazy.  She had a giant orange snake hanging from the ceiling named “Hester”, Japanese art and calligraphy hanging on the walls, stacks and stacks of papers on her desk, and she still managed to read and bleed all over my essays!  I often wondered if we were such a horrible writers why she always managed to smile and laugh in our class, she had very good sense of humor, especially with the Scarlet Letter.  That didn’t seem congruent with her serious level of expectation in the classroom.

As a teacher, coming back and sharing a classroom with Mrs. U was an honor.  As an adult and fellow teacher I had come to understand what a fantastic teacher she had been.  I aspired to be like her.  Keeping expectations high in my classroom, but making classic literature not only approachable, but also engaging to my students.  I enjoyed talking to her about various approaches to teaching concepts that were difficult for my kids, we shared ideas, tweaked them together, talked often about great books that we love.  Good ways to get kids to love books the way we do.  We even had differences of opinions on books, such as the Catcher in the Rye, which she quickly pointed out that I didn’t like because I didn’t “get it”.

One of the greatest privileges was being permitted to read books with her notes, as she is so willing to share her vast experience and knowledge with a former student, turned colleague.
Carol Fullington

In Sugi’s day as an educator, she set high standards for herself, had high expectations for her students, fought for the underdog, and extended generosity to a fault.  That day could have been 30 years ago or yesterday.  And will probably continue tomorrow.
Larry Hollan
Paolite Editor 1981

Thank you Mrs. U for teaching me the skills to test out college English at Purdue!
God Love You!
Sally P. Weeks-Stouse
Class of 1981

In 1987…after my FIRST teaching observation by Mr. Babcock (yes, the one with that yellow legal pad in his hands)…he said to me…”Aspire to be like Mrs. Uyesugi–she has command of her classroom and shares her knowledge passionately.”   Twenty-six years later… I am still trying.
Mrs. Rachel Wyatt

When I had Mrs. U for senior English (1980-81), she was super busy with her journalism classes. She told my classmates to “ask Becky” when they had papers to proof or questions about class. I blame her for my becoming an English teacher! 🙂
Rebecca Haley

I graduated from Paoli High School in 1988. My high-school experience was largely influenced and anchored around two amazing teachers—Tish Alder, on the south end of the school—who was my first real mentor in the arts—and Ruth Uyesugi, on the north end who helped me become a better writer and who also allowed me to have an outlet for my cartooning in The Paolite (occasionally, to her chagrin). I’d often make the trek between to the two ends of the school to discuss ideas for political cartoons, turn in drawings, or just drop in to give each of them a hard-time—in the most positive sense (or at least that was how I intended it).

A teacher is doing something right when she pulls the best out of her students, earns their respect and creates an environment where they where they want to be…even when they don’t have to be there. She did all of those things. She was able to balance being the Authority, the Mentor, the Teacher and Friend. She had a great sense of humor but wasn’t afraid to crack you on the head when you crossed the line. When I returned to visit PHS on occasion after graduation, she was one of the people I would always seek out to visit.

Ruth Uyesugi, or “Mrs. U” as she was more commonly known, is one of those handful of teachers who are fondly remembered decades later by their students. She, in her feisty, determined, yet endearing way, encapsulated many of the virtues that make a great teacher: dedication, love of her calling, patience (sometimes) with her students, humor, knowledge and the ability to inspire and motivate those around her to do their best. It is very fitting that she is honored her for her decades-long service to PHS, it students and the Paoli community.
Ray Rieck
Class of 1988

Ruth Uyesugi taught me journalism and English. I made a career out of journalism, and I discovered a lifetime passion for good literature. But probably the most important lesson Mrs. U taught me came when I represented her sophomore homeroom in the school’s spelling bee. (I realize how terribly quaint a spelling bee must sound to today’s students.) As a 15-year-old, I had just discovered that winning the classroom bee earned me much more than just a spot in the school wide contest; that honor came with a lot of teasing about being smart. So when my first turn came to spell at the convocation in the gym, I carefully, intentionally spelled “R-E-P-I-T-I-T-I-O-N,” and was out of the running. That would silence “the smart girl” remarks, I thought. But it didn’t silence Mrs. U, who had plenty to say about it. I don’t remember her exact words, but I have never forgotten that I let down my classmates, Mrs. U, and myself that day in the PHS gymnasium. But she wasn’t shaming me. She made me realize that each of us has talents and that we must honor and use those talents — whatever they may be — to the best of our abilities. That powerful life lesson has replayed in my conscience numerous times over the years. I suspect hundreds of others could recount similar lessons learned from our Mrs. U.
Nancy Davis Metz

Mrs. Uyesugi was my Senior Literature teacher. One six weeks she decided that we were going to do a “Senior Play”.  It was a play that she had written titled One More Song about a family doctor that spent much time at the office and seemed to care more about his patients than he did about his own family.  Mrs. U gave us a character list and told us to sign up for one.  Our entire grade that 6 weeks came from how we performed during the play.  Well, when I was in high school, I was terrified about getting up in front of people.(Believe it or not!)  I would get so nervous when I had to give speeches that my knees would be shaking.  So, I chose a low-key character with not many lines.  Mrs. U handed my character choice back to me and said, “Oh no, I want YOU in a major role.”  She assigned me the part of Nurse Barnaby–a very buxom, bossy sidekick to the doctor with many lines!  I mentioned how I am uncomfortable in front of people, but she said, “Acting is different and I already had this character picked out for you.  You can do it!!”  So, not being one to argue with my teachers, I swallowed hard and started memorizing lines.  She was right–it was easier to be in front of people when you were acting it out.  I did great, never missed a line, and got an A+ that grading period.  I am glad she made me take on the bigger role because it started the process of learning to get over my fear of speaking in front of people.  It doesn’t bother me now, and I am often asked to serve as liturgist or do a reading at my church because I’m told I have a good speaking voice.  Thanks, Mrs. U!  Love U!
Math Teacher Jackie Bosley

Mrs U was my journalism teacher.  I helped with both the Paolite high school newspaper and the Hillcrest yearbook.  Mrs U broke down all barriers of the student-teacher relationship to allow an environment of creativity.  Topics of discussion were always very open and she loved the opinions and observations of young people.  She could be very strict with her grading process but we always felt encouraged rather than criticized.  She knew how to get the best out of you!
Cyndi Ramsey Rowland
PHS class of 1974

I’ve loved and respected Mrs. U from the time I was a little girl. I grew up in the same neighborhood she lived in and was friends with her daughter Anne. We had some really fun slumber parties there. Mrs. U always seemed to welcome us with open arms even when we had a séance or used the Ouija board or “raised the card table” keeping everyone awake with our screams and talk. When we had practice at her house for “The Sedettes”, a singing group neighborhood friends formed, Mrs. U never batted an eye. We all just seemed to fit right in with the warm chaotic household!

One of my best friends from kindergarten through high school and beyond was her niece so I had another close tie to her. Mrs. U has been a wacky, witty, lovable and cherished part of my life. To say that she was my all time favorite teacher doesn’t even begin to say it all. To put into words how much she means to me cannot be done. She gave me a love of literature that exists to this day. I can’t imagine all the knowledge of that subject that is in her beautiful head. I’m lucky she shared it with me.

I was on the Paolite staff in high school and can’t express all the fun we had because of her sense of humor. It wasn’t all fun though-she taught us self-discipline and people skills that have helped me my entire life-even in my nursing career.

I was co-editor of the Hillcrest my senior year at Paoli High School so again, she was an important influence to me. She was “our boss” and boss she could! Always with her sweet smile and a will of steel! We worked long hard hectic hours on that yearbook but it was a labor of love for the book itself, our school, our town, and our beloved Mrs. U. It was 1966 and 1967 a time of “peace and love”, the Vietnam war and unrest and fear in students. Working on this project with Mrs. U kept things in perspective and order in our lives at a confusing time in our world. At school every day just being with her-we knew she loved us too and it was like having a safe haven in her room or after school working with her.

She has touched the lives of so many students who have gone on to many careers and I’ll bet they all have a story to tell. My story continues because as Paoli School Nurse for 26 years, she has remained in my life. I am so lucky to still get a hug from her when we see each other.

To name the new auditorium after her is an honor she certainly deserves. To have had her teach me many things is my honor.

You have been a shining light in my life Mrs. U and I love you!!

With gratitude,
Kristin Trinkle