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"Blast From The Past"

How many times in your life, when your mind is meandering, do you think of someone in your past who has touched your life in some special way? Maybe you Google them and maybe you just have fond thoughts, that pass and you then just resume your normal activities, without any action on your part.

Well, I acted recently, and the reward was overwhelming!  Sixty years ago,  I attended New Trier High School in Winnetka, Ill, at the time, rated scholastically 2nd in the United States.  During that period, I had an amazing young English teacher, named Joan Franklin. She was inspiring in every way possible! Everyday in class we were asked to write a one or two page piece about some obscure subject. Sometimes it would be a humorous family story, sometimes an analysis of yourself,  or sometimes anything that popped into your mind at that precise moment.  She not only graded every single paper, but she wrote a long hand,  detailed analysis of not only your thought process and the story content, but also your grammar, punctuation, etc. She must never have slept! The paper would be returned the following day, and we would proceed to write another paper!

I saved some of those papers/stories and had them in a binder. Recently, my granddaughters, McKenzie & Alexa were visiting and I told them about her. In reading her comments,  I was amazed all over again at her insight, and thoroughness.

I couldn't get her out of my mind, so decided to Google her. My goodness, she had and still has an amazing life.  I took it a step further two days ago, and after hours of research,  was given a phone number, so I called her. She was as thrilled to get the call, as I was to speak to her! I followed up with a more detailed Email yesterday, and I received her reply this morning.

The following is our exchange. The lesson from all of this is, everyone who reads this blog must have a teacher, doctor, a friend, that somehow impacted your life. Do something about it......with the Internet it is easy to find someone now, and write or pick up the phone call them, as I did, to say thank you.  It will not only "make their day" , but,  will also " make your day", and  enrich your life and memories in so many ways.

Now, who is Joan Franklin Smutny:

Founder and Director of The Center for Gifted, Joan Franklin Smutny welcomes thousands of gifted children to year-round programs. She teaches creative writing to young students at her programs, as well as gifted education courses to graduate students at the university level. She is editor of the Illinois Association for Gifted Children Journal, contributing editor of Understanding our Gifted, and a regular contributor to Gifted Education Communicator, Parenting for High Potential, and Gifted Education Press Quarterly.

Joan has authored, co-authored, and edited many articles and twenty books on gifted education for teachers and parents, the most recent of which include Discovering and Advancing Talents in Spanish-Speaking Students (2012), Teaching Advanced Learners in the General Education Classroom(2012), Parenting Gifted Children (2011), Manifesto of the Gifted Girl (2010), Differentiating for the Young Gifted Child, 2nd Edition (2010), Igniting Creativity in Gifted Learners, K-6 (2009), Acceleration for Gifted Learners, K-5 (2007), and Reclaiming the Lives of Gifted Girls and Women (2007). In 1996, Joan received the NAGC Distinguished Service Award for her outstanding contribution to the field of gifted education. In 2012, she received the E. Paul Torrance Award in Creativity given by NAGC.

My email to Joan: (09/24/2013--3:27 PM)

Dear Joan,

I can't begin to tell you how thrilled I was to talk to you yesterday!  I have talked about you all of my life. I have always been in awe of you as a fantastic teacher.  I enjoyed your  English class so much.  You amazed me at your ability to write entire critique's in longhand on every  paper we wrote in your class.  Your comments were funny, thoughtful, and definitely helpful. You must have never slept!
As I told you on the phone yesterday, I kept some of my stories in binders and showed them to my granddaughters recently. They loved the stories (usually about nothing) but fun, and they too were amazed at your thorough assessment. In deciding to try to "track you down", I found out what a wonderful accomplished life you have led, all geared to teaching gifted children. I finally found you through your Center For Gifted Children.  Wow, I'm not surprised, you were such an amazing teacher.
I have led a wonderful full life, but not the  life I had originally planned, as so  often happens in life. I grew up  in Wilmette, and attended New Trier from 1952  through 1956. You had inspired me, so I wanted to become a teacher. I had been accepted at The National College of Education and Northwestern University.In the meantime, I had fallen in love with a football player from Northwestern and much to my fathers dismay, we eloped.
Unfortunately, after 24 years there was a divorce  I put my two sons through school by selling real estate in Illinois and California . I remarried and had a happy marriage for 12 years and my husband had a massive stroke. Then two years  later, he died of  cancer. I had been helping him financially, start and build a new business, so, when he died, I suffered a huge financial blow.  But the good news is I then met a wonderful man, Jim Little, in Hawaii, and we have been together for 20 years. I am kind of a "bionic" woman, I have had 14 surgeries in those past 20 years that I have been with Jim.  Hips & knees replaced, bolts in my ankles, etc.
 I know this is starting to sound like a real sob story, but honestly, I have had a wonderful, active, beautiful life! I still sell real estate, (over 42 years), have a fabulous family, both of my  sons are married and successful. Jim and I are "living in sin", but are totally compatible and happy.  He has three wonderful sons, all with delightful families in the Carolinas. My sons are here in California.
In some respects, real estate sales & management for over 40 years, has made me not only a teacher, but also, a counselor.  My clients all  become my friends, and I love them all. I am the kind of agent that takes every transaction personally, and I truly care about my clients. My business is so stressful sometimes, but it brings unimaginable rewards and lasting friendships.
Jim and I live in a little "Age 55+ community called Summerset", in Brentwood, Ca.  (Not "OJ" Brentwood) :-) It is located  in the San Francisco Bay area. We have a darling small home on a pond, we call it "our golden pond", and golf course. We have tons of friends and activities, including my real estate sales here.  It works for me, because all the homes are one story.:-)
Well, that kind of brings you up to date.  Oh I also write a "fun" blog.  Probably my next entry will be about you. Please don't judge my proper English, etc. :-) I just kind of sit down and "whip" out something when I'm inspired! It started out just for family members but seems to have grown a bit since I started it a year ago.
 I also remember Mr Sweet!  He was an interesting and fun teacher. Did you know him? Well, that gives you kind of a picture of my life in a nut shell, for the past 60 years.
Again, thank you, for being you, I am proud to say to were my teacher.
Karen Ghaster (Bajtos) Long
Her reply: (09/24/2013--10:48 PM)

Dearest Karen:
Thank you for your phone call and thank you for your wondrous letter.  I was touched that you would call.  Yes, I remember you.  You were and are a bright, shiny, talented young woman that I loved having in class.  I loved your writing and I love it even more. Your letter is rich with panorama of activities.  You give light because you have oil, and indeed you would nourish and replenish yourself well.
My family all live in Whittier and La Habra, two suburbs outside of LA.  Several of us will probably be going to Carmel this coming August 2014.  We used to go every year but have not gone the last three years.  I am not sure I will be getting up to San Francisco.  It would be pure joy to see you and to share.
You are a singular person, my friend.  You are deserving of many more years of giving and doing.  How fortunate thousands of families have been to have you as their realtor.  You have taken all the wonderful qualities of teaching and applied them to communication of homes to people who are in need of your insight.  
It was my great joy to hear from you, Karen.  I appreciate all the love given through the phone and this letter.  May I say I send it all back to you.  You are remarkable.  Your life readily attests to your life of giving.  Thank you for giving to me in high school and once again decades later.  

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Jenny Burrow | Reply 02.08.2016 23.38

I too am an avid fan of Joan. I attended two of her workshops at GATE conferences in CA. She is one of my career inspirations by far. She is AWESOME!

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05.10 | 02:51

I would love to help you clean grout!!

03.10 | 06:37

Love this! Thank you for sharing!

02.10 | 19:05

Sis, want to help me clean my grout?

02.08 | 23:38

I too am an avid fan of Joan. I attended two of her workshops at GATE conferences in CA. She is one of my career inspirations by far. She is AWESOME!

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