Thank God for Mrs. Fitz

I have no idea how far along into my life I am. I could be halfway. I could be a third of the way. But I already know that when I look back on my life, it’s going to be the people I remember. The people who made me better, made my memories full and improved the quality of my days. Yesterday, I lost one of those people.

No one knows what to expect on their first day of school. You may not remember yours, but I do. I remember I wore a rainbow colored dress that my mother knew was my favorite. I remember the color of my backpack, the details of that morning like it’s a captured moment I can glance at in a frame.

I remember fumbling trying to tie my shoes that morning and the feeling of stepping onto that big yellow bus for the first time. I knew it was an important day, but I had no idea how important. That day — my first day of first grade — was when I’d meet Mrs. Fitzgerald.

I didn’t know that day Mrs. Fitz, or Fitzy as we came to know her, would walk with me through the rest of my life, serve as my Confirmation sponsor, my secret keeper, my sounding board and my friend.

In truth, she was the first person outside my family to make me feel special. I made her laugh, and she lit up my childhood.

She was there for everything: My siblings’ birthdays and mine, religious ceremonies, graduations and recitals.

Fitzy was always excited for you and about you. With her hair pulled tight into a ponytail, never without a bow, Fitz seemed to know the key to everyone’s heart.

As a teacher, she was always in a bright sweater, surrounded by dye cut-outs of simple lessons and the stuffed animals lining her reading corner. She was all of those wonderful and sentimental things, but she was also honest. And her honest, unexpected moments were her best.

I found Fitzy’s honesty most helpful when updating her on my life. She gave great advice, especially on love. She taught me how to hold myself to the highest standard, but to have fun while doing it. To give yourself a shot, a break and a fair chance at anything you wanted. She led by example — approaching life with enthusiasm and a huge smile and I think her attitude rubbed off on me more than anyone could possibly measure.

She knew what she wanted in life and who she wanted to spend it with. I met Mr. Fitz when I was 6 years old when I fell for the completely believable story that he was the classroom mailman. He’d bring Mrs. Fitz flowers and coffee and I started to think, even at that young age, that Mrs. Fitz should consider giving the mailman a chance. Turns out, she already had. There is no question how important Mr. Fitz was to his wife, who never called him by his first name. Always, Mr. Fitz.

On my winter breaks from college I’d visit for birthdays, and find my bright poinsettia or silly trinket was no match for the huge bouquet sitting in the middle of the classroom from the mailman. Mr. Fitz knew what he had and she loved him very much.

I have a million little memories with Fitzy. She’s such a special person, I wish I could remember every single thing she’d said to me because I know it would help guide me in the future. But I have the teddy bear she gave me after I begged and begged, the pictures in my mom’s photo album of all our adventures, the songs I’ll sing on St. Patrick’s Day that she taught me and I’ll always have her in my heart.

She was a great teacher. She was an incredible friend and a downright wonderful person who left this earth a “bazillion” times better than she found it. I hope that my kids have a teacher in their lives who helps them discover the fun in the everyday the way Mrs. Fitz did. I will miss her very much. So I’ll end as she ended every letter — with a smiley face. 🙂

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06 2013

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  1. Mary Ellen Milelr #

    Thank you so much for this wonderful tribute to Nancy Fitz. She was truly a gem and made everyone who knew her a better person.

  2. Lisa Kelley-Connor #

    Megan this is so beautiful!!! Thank you so much! She will be sorely missed.

  3. Alon Vogel #

    Thank you so much for capturing what a special teacher and person Mrs. Fitz was, and the wonderful example that Mr. and Mrs. Fitz set for so many students as a loving married couple. Seeing Ms. Miller’s comment, I couldn’t help but recall the experience my family had that involved both of these wonderful Wyngate teachers when our youngest child was entering first grade. Having had Ms. Miller as a teacher for our two older children (although our middle child had Ms. Fitz for math), my wife requested Ms. Miller for our youngest daughter, Gabi. We were (and still are) big fans of Ms. Miller and already had gotten to know her well and felt strongly that we wanted her as Gabi’s teacher. When we found out that Gabi had been assigned to Mrs. Fitz’s class, we were deeply disappointed. Of course, once I got to meet Mrs. Fitz at “Back to School Night”, I knew that our daughter was in for a wonderful year. I’ll never forget Mrs. Fitz’s words that night when describing why she loved teaching first grade (and it was clear that teaching for her was something she truly loved). She said that her students, at that age, generally liked school and one of her main goals was to have that continue until at least 2nd grade. She couldn’t promise that our kids would always like school, but it wasn’t going to change on her watch. In fact, she continued to add to our daughter’s enjoyment during all of her time at Wyngate as running into Mrs. Fitz in the hallway or stopping by her class to say hi was always a highlight of Gabi’s day. Since Gabi is now in 7th grade and we’re no longer directly involved at Wyngate, we didn’t realize that Mrs. Fitz was sick and were shocked when we learned Monday night that the Wyngate community had suffered such a profound loss. We feel truly blessed that our daughter was able to learn and will forever carry the life lessons that Mrs. Fitz provided. We grieve along with Mr. Fitz and the entire Wyngate community and offer our condolences to the many who are impacted by her loss, but take comfort in knowing the positive impact she had on so many former Wyngate first graders.

  4. Cay Miller #

    I only had Ms. Fitz for math that year (’87-’88), but I will always remember her as the one who taught me how to read a clock and how to sing Hail to the Redskins. Great post, Megan. 🙂

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