Friday, July 3, 2015

Ode To An Inspirational Teacher

Ms. Viola Perrault
4th Grade Teacher, Pilot, Adventurer,
SCUBA Diver, Shell Collector, and
inspiration to many generations
of students.
  We all have a teacher we recall as being influential in our lives. I was fortunate to have several. One of the earliest ones I recall was my fourth grade teacher at W.T. Sampson school in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba - Ms. Viola Perrault.
  At an impressionable age Ms. Perrault was one of those teachers who instilled excitement into the learning process. She gifted us with a desire to learn more. To this day I recall one of my favorite times of the school day was reading time. She introduced us to stories as varied as the fantastically whimsical Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory to the very poignant and grown-up tale of Flowers for Algernon. For myself and every student she ever taught the year-long class project of collecting, classifying, memorizing and displaying a sea shell collection was the highlight of our education.
  Being that we lived in the tropical paradise of Guantanamo Bay we had a veritable treasure trove of opportunities and locations to seek out shells for our projects. Ms. Perrault even coordinated with the Navy to make use of their vessels to take us on field trips to beaches not normally accessible to us. Trying to sleep the night before a field trip across the bay was as pointless as trying to sleep on Christmas Eve - you fought it all night long.
  Over the years the knowledge I learned that very special year has faded. Where once I could rattle off the scientific name of every sea shell I owned, the location in the world where they were found and a plethora of ancillary information, I can now recall just the common names of most shells. But where that knowledge may have faded over time, my love of the sea and marine life and the marine eco-system has not. Now some forty-three years after Ms. Perrault gave me the gift of love of sea-life I find myself once again digging in, researching, classifying, memorizing and building a shell collection to display, both actual and virtual, hopefully educating and passing on the love of the life aquatic to others.
  Thank you Ms. Perrault for the gift you gave me and so many others those many years ago.


  1. I'm curious what year Viola Perrault was your 4th grade teacher. Was it in the early 60s? My 4th grade teacher at an airbase in Morocco in 1956 was Viola Perrault though I am no longer certain of the spelling of her last name. We stayed in touch for many years - even into the 1970s when I believe she was living somewhere in New England. Could it be the same Viola?

  2. Hello Lida,
    I do not know if it is the same Viola or not. I do know she was an avid traveler so it would not surprise me to learn she may have taught elsewhere.
    I had her when I was in fourth grade on the naval base at Guantanamo Bay. We were there from 1970-1974 and she was my teacher in 1971-72.
    The last I heard she was living in a retirement community somewhere in New Mexico I believe.

  3. Thanks so much. I expect that there are many more of her students who thought she was the 'best ever' My B&W photo of her was taken out in the play area in 1956. Younger of course, but she's wearing the same general style of glasses and her hair is darker - in my mind she had red/auburn hair in the 50's. The hair style is about the same as in your photo - parted on left and relatively short.