I first met Mrs. Weiss in 2002 when I was just a pee-wee in her seventh grade math class at Thomas Starr King Middle School. It was a rather hectic time for yours truly. Having just learned the ins and outs of our school system, my friends and I weren’t exactly the friendliest bunch of students, but we were especially a handful with “nice” teachers. Ms. Weiss, it’d turn out, was a nice teacher. Hailing straight out of Cal State San Bernardino, she was barely into her second year at King when we met. From the start, then, our time together was always going to be a growing experience.
Over the course of the days that’d follow, legends would be born in the classroom we shared. Some good, some bad, and some just better left unspoken. At least in the context of this story, that is.
It all started when I visited Mrs. Weiss’s current classroom for a short talk with her students earlier this year. Standing in front of the class, I was flabbergasted at the thought that I was just about twice as old as the young people seated in front of me. I mean, I guess a lifetime had passed, except that it felt like I was just in those kids’s shoes the other day! Imagine my amazement, then, when Mrs. Weiss told me that she herself had actually gone right into the profession at just about twenty-three years of age.
I had to investigate. I thought of my time during grade school and everything I saw and heard teachers went through, and even if I could imagine someone aspiring to enter the field, I could hardly see how they’d want to do so right after college. Interestingly enough, however, Mrs. Weiss told me that she always knew it’d be her career.
But how? I mean, where did she draw the inspiration from?
“More than any one teacher, it was the lifestyle that a few teachers embodied,” Mrs. Weiss tells me of her motivation to teach.
There was Ms. Ferrell for example. He worked as a flight attendant during the school breaks, and on occasions even brought newscasters to the classroom who taught the class to run their own ‘show’. Then there was Mr. Bosna, who worked at Disneyland on the weekends and told stories about his past, like when he spent two weeks eating nothing but bananas in order to make weight for the military.
“I spent a lot of my youth fascinated by these characters and others like them”, she notes. Her fascination eventually led her to pursue Teacher Education at Cal State San Bernardino, where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies in 2000.
Then, just a few months after she graduated, a position opened up at Thomas Starr King Middle School. The school was in desperate need of a math teacher, and just like that, Cindy Weiss became the inexorable Mrs. Weiss! This became true both professionally, as well as personally; 2000 was also the year in which Ms. Weiss became the mother of her first son, Eric. The following year, she and her high school sweetheart Rodrigo Weiss tied the knot.
From there, it was all sweet sailing, right? Actually, while motherhood and a career in education were naturally corresponding occupations, going back and forth between the two would prove testing.
For one, as just another one of her eleven year old peas in the pod at King, I can admit I wasn’t very interested in helping make life any easier for Mrs. Weiss. Sure like any other student I just wanted to learn the material and study to do well, as did my buddies, but at the same time my buddies and I also wanted to be jerks. And ultimately, we would end up mostly just being jerks.
But Mrs. Weiss took it in stride. She showed up to every class, and hosted every open house with a radiant smile as parents stopped by to learn about her work.
It was there that she and my mom met, through which the two of them would strike a notorious deal in response to my poor behavior during the school-year: to take back the classroom from my friends and I, Mrs. Weiss invited my mom to sit in on the class.
A few days later, my mother actually showed up and sat down right next to me during the Entire. Period.
Needless to say, the move foiled my jerk’s itinerary in Mrs. Weiss’s class for the rest of the school year. While I was far from the best in my class following that fateful day, I certainly showed more respect to my math teacher from then on. I mean, she had our phone number, man!
Then, in the blink of an eye our time in class together came to an end. My buddies and I somehow made it to the eighth grade and then onto high school, and not long afterwards, in 2005 Mrs. Weiss took an opportunity to teach at Northview Intermediate Middle School in Duarte, where she’s remained ever since.
Overall, she tells me, her time at Northview has been far smoother than what she experienced at King, but it also had its rough starts. It was an education.
“I still remember grading papers and burning dinner, staying late to make copies instead of picking up my son from grandma’s, and rushing to fax lesson plans to the substitute because my son would wake up sick. I never seemed to get the right balance,” she shares.
Eventually though, just as she found a way to work through those early days at King, she also found a way to raise her son and teach her ‘other’ kids.
When Eric entered middle school at Northview in 2011, he and Mrs. Weiss strategized on how to communicate without embarrassing “each other.” As if the level of embarrassment could ever be mutual!
“I wasn’t allowed to call him ‘mi hijito‘ in front of his friends,” Mrs. Weiss tells me, “but I was allowed to blow him kisses and mouth ‘I love you’ when no one was looking.”
For this, I tip my hat to them. As anyone being cool during school knows: being caught getting mommed while in school is the ultimate offense to the game. Obviously, I know this all too well.
And yet somehow Mrs. Weiss and her son pulled it off. Earlier in 2014, Eric culminated from Northview to start high school in Duarte.
Now, when Mrs. Weiss isn’t busy momming or teaching, she splits her time between looking after her second son, Benjamin, who was born in 2009, and working on her Master’s Degree in Math Education at Western Governor’s University, which she expects to complete by January 2016.
It’s been a busy schedule, but as before, Mrs. Weiss has approached it all with a classic smile and a warm sense of humor that have won her quite a few friendships with fellow teachers, parents, and of course, former students.
For me, it’s been a pleasure reconnecting with Mrs. Weiss after all these years, and sitting down alongside her for lunch with my mom to reflect and reminisce on our educations together was a ball! Especially since now I can do this of my own free will!
Thank you Mrs. Weiss.