Eighth grade was an extraordinarily interesting year. Our teacher, Sister Mary Liliose, wanted to impart as much information as possible to ensure we would not only succeed, but excel in our high school years. John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, was running for president.
Her special interest for the year was parliamentary procedure. She said we needed to know this technique for official meetings. We studied the U.S. Constitution, and each of us had a pocket-sized copy of it.
We wrote essays on phrases in the Preamble and the Declaration of Independence.
The unique and interesting handwriting of the signers of this profound document was interesting. She suggested we develop a signature reflecting who we are, which was fun.
After satisfying the prerequisites about where parliamentary procedure is used, she taught us the hows and whens of making motions, seconds, discussion and recognizing a person who wanted to speak on an issue under consideration. It was formal and followed a precise order.
She wanted us to elect a classroom president to practice what we learned. If we made an error in the order, we had to repeat it until it was correct. Three were nominated and I won, becoming classroom president, which was thrilling. What an honor and responsibility.
We met once a week. Issues were not as important as proper procedure. Once we proposed a shorter school day! It was about learning how to present an issue or item.
Shortly after Christmas vacation, we had to submit our chosen high school. I did not want to ride a bus to school, wear a uniform or miss the competition with the boys, especially in math.
I was going to public school across the street. Writing it down was easy.
The next day Sister Liliose asked me to stay after school. I was perplexed and wondered, "What did I do?"
I approached this meeting with some trepidation. No one stayed after school without a very good reason. Sister very quietly told me, "Ann, tomorrow I will give you time for a class meeting. The purpose of this meeting is for you to properly resign as president."
Shocked, I asked why. She said I could avoid being replaced if I changed my mind about public school and attended a Catholic School. I told her I would think about it and went home.
That evening I carefully read and reread the Bill of Rights and procedures used in Congress. I read about impeachments, censures, and reprimands levied against members of Congress. I was sure my right to be classroom president was being sabotaged by Sister Liliose.
When it was time to have the meeting, I stood before my class and asked them to look out the windows at our republic. For 20 minutes I gave a passionate speech on the Bill of Rights, what our founding fathers' goals and objectives were, and concluded by saying, "Without just cause, Sister Liliose has asked me to resign my presidency. The floor is now open to nominations."
Again three people were nominated. Sister was standing in the back of the room, pounding her fists wildly in the air as I delivered my "Bill of Rights, freedom of choice" speech. She energized me, regaining her self-control when I opened up nominations.
Secret ballots were cast. Someone from another class counted them and returned to our classroom. He announced, "The votes have been counted. (Pause.) Ann Bednarski won as a write-in choice, receiving 100 percent of the vote." The process worked!
Sister Liliose thanked him. She stood before our class and said softly with conviction: "I am very pleased you learned parliamentary procedure so well. We no longer need a classroom president." ...
During the summer, I encountered nuns returning from church on a Tuesday night. We lived between the convent and the church.
After I greeted them on this warm night, one of them (who was never my teacher) said, "Ann, we just finished doing a Novena for you." Since Novenas are usually conducted for hopeless cases, dying people, thieves and killers, I asked why one was done for me.
She said, "We are afraid the Protestants will get you in public school."
I thought for a few seconds and sounding as scared as I was, replied, "Sister, if my faith cannot be exposed to a few Protestants, perhaps it is not worth saving." She screamed!
I attended public school with Catholics, Jews and Protestants. We all love our country and it is in God we trust.
• Ann Bednarski of Carson City is a career educator and journalist.