It Started in 1st Grade


Not Miss Gabriel, but close enough
Looking back, it must have been one of those days when our first-grade teacher, Miss Gabriel, needed a minute to breathe. Although she was known for a spirit as fiery as her red hair, which could strike fear in the minds of all her students, there was an underlying kindness; even a love for every one of us. So, on that day when, on the black(green)board, she chalked in a problem for us to solve, "alone and quiet at our desks," I set to work. I don't remember the specifics of the problem, but it had to do with Farmer Jones planting corn, beans, and wheat. Our task: Figure out how many rows of crops Farmer Jones planted in all. I sat there for a minute--maybe two or three--and I knew the answer was 10. 

Being the shy, quiet student who never wanted to make waves, I probably sat for another minute, working up the courage to disturb Miss Gabriel. I finally tiptoed up to her desk, and she looked down at me, as in, "Now what?" 

"Can I help you?" she said.
"I think the answer is ten."
"How did you come up with that?"
"I don't know."
Then I tried to explain my thought process, which was probably no explanation at all, or maybe enough of one, because her whole demeanor changed.

She pulled out a piece of paper, drew three interconnecting circles, and by showing me my first Venn diagram, she unraveled the explanation that, seconds ago, remained jumbled in my mind.

Before that moment, I might have enjoyed such challenges, but thinking back...
That look of surprise on her face and the care she took in teaching me a bit of math flipped a puzzle-switch in me. From then on, I craved riddles, rebuses, logic problems--any means of puzzles.  

Ah, Miss Gabriel! I only wish youhad been around when I figured out a way to turn that craving into The Gollywhopper Games.

Jody Feldman is keeping this part of the bio short because she needs to finish the three-star crossword puzzle sitting and staring at her.


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