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March 1, 2006
Vol. 63
No. 6

Great Teachers Remembered: Mamie Till Mobley

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      “Miz Mobley” was my 5th grade teacher—and the mother of Emmett Till, who had been brutally murdered years before in Mississippi for whistling at a white woman. At the time of his death in 1955, the Chicago teenager was only 14 years old. Mamie Till Mobley took the brutal slaying of her son and turned it into a mission to end the ignorance that caused his death. Her son lives on in every one of her students.
      Miz Mobley was more than just a teacher. She knew me before I knew myself. She showed me who I could be. Demanded that I be the best I could be. Made it impossible to do otherwise on her watch.
      I remember how history came alive in her animated face. She loved teaching and learning and believed that the truth would indeed set us free. I watched, rapt, as she paced the front of the classroom, reading to us, questioning us, challenging us—loving us. I can still hear her voice, see her there in front of us, gesturing with glee as she led us to the promised land of intellectual enlightenment. Her plump brown face reflected our excitement back to us, magnified it a thousand times, creating an irresistible force.
      I read ahead in textbooks, just imagining what she would sound like telling us these stories, showing us how to solve the problems, explaining how to read between the lines. I wanted her to shine on me the way she always did when she saw that I was trying, really listening.
      You wanted to sit up close. You wanted to stand next to the fire. And most of all, when you left her, you wanted to take that light out into the world and shine it on everyone and everything. So the whole world could see and know and want to do better.

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