The venerable English teacher died last week in Northern Virginia. Today at a memorial service hundreds flocked to memorialize Judy, her love for her students, and her love for the English language.
Judy taught 10th-graders. She was a self-proclaimed "Grammar Nazi." She knew that the comma and the period, because they were singular and "lonely," went inside the quotation marks, while colon and its cousin, the semi-colon, had "friends" and could stand alone outside the quote.
Judy did not suffer fools easily. She called a spade a spade, and detested the cliches I'm using in this sentence. She was sharp, she was sly, she was cool.
"Mrs. Harris dedicated herself to teaching English and especially expository writing," her obit read. "A generation of West Springfield High School students benefited from her tireless devotion to her calling." The black print on gray newsprint reported a fact that translated to heartfelt dedication in Judy's classroom.
One of Judy's former students, now a graduate student and a married woman, brought her high school style manual to Judy's memorial service today, because she though Mrs. Harris would find it a fitting gesture. After 10th-grade English in Judy's class, "I also took Mrs. Harris'sAdvanced Comp class and was then offered the prestigious position of being teaching assistant for a year," the former student said. "Having her accept me back into her classroom for a 3rd year was among the highest honors! Through her teaching, she had a profound impact on me... I still laugh when I tell colleagues and friends about my wacky high school English teacher who graded our papers in red felt-tip pen so they'd look like they were bleeding after a massacre if they were poorly written!"
Judy Harris was a pro. She was the best. We will miss her. Declarative sentences, all.