7/16/13 After 45 years, teacher reunited with student

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Teacher Lorine Totten, left, is seen with members of her fourth-grade class at E.M. Holt Elementary in 1968. Totten recently reconnected with one of her students from the class.

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Teacher Lorine Totten, left, is seen with members of her fourth-grade class at E.M. Holt Elementary in 1968. Totten recently reconnected with one of her students from the class.

After 45 years, teacher reunited with student
By Kate Murphy The Times-News 7/16/13  
Reprinted with permission.


   ELON — Sitting on the porch one sunny afternoon at Blakey Hall Retirement Community in Elon, Lorine Totten, 74, was having a friendly conversation with a woman who happened to have the same last name.

   She was asked if she knew Steve Totten, a student she had taught 45 years ago in a fourth-grade class at E.M. Holt Elementary School who has the same name but was no relation to her. The woman she was sitting next to happened to be Steve’s wife.

   “I was very pleased to get to meet him, and it was very nice seeing him,” Lorine Totten said. “He’s a grown man now with gray hair and back then he was a small boy and had dark hair. It ages me for sure.”

   When Lorine Totten met with Steve Totten she shared more than just a few words and memories. She shared original letters the class had written to her while she was their student teacher in 1968 and a class picture, labeled with the names of each student and the primary teacher, Mrs. Linda Angel.

   “They were nice letters and I just wanted to keep them as sort of a symbol of that part of my life,” Lorine Totten said. “They were good children and I enjoyed working with them and I guess that’s why I wanted to keep them and they did such a nice job on the letters, too.”

   The letters described bunny rabbit puppets the class had made and a spelling bee and how thankful they were for her teaching them how to make penholder cans for Mother’s Day.

   “I thought it was just fascinating to see something you had actually written that long ago,” Steve Totten said. “What was surprising when I looked at all the letters they were all written in cursive, which in today’s world everything is typed.”

   Teaching those children made a remarkable impact on Lorine Totten, who was just finishing up her studies at Elon University at the time. It was enough of an impact to cause a young student teacher to keep a labeled class picture and dozens of letters from each of her 9- and 10-yearold students for 45 years.

   “It made me a better person,” Lorine Totten said. “It tells me that children will be good for you as long as you love them and expect high things from them.”

   Lorine Totten went on to teach third grade for many years in Caswell County and later became a principal at two schools, but this was the only class that she ever kept mementos from throughout her years of teaching.

   Once retired, she came back to the area and lived in Cedar Ridge in Burlington, an independent senior living community. But, as circumstance would have it, she broke a shoulder and needed more personal care. So she ended up at Blakey Hall, right next door to Steve Totten’s father-in-law and on that porch one sunny afternoon next to his wife.

   “I just think running into someone, a student teacher who moved away, and the fact that she ended up right next door in the next room from my father-in-law was just irony,” Steve said. “And the fact that she saved all these letters from her student teaching, to me it’s just amazing that we connected.”

   Steve Totten made copies of all the letters and plans to track down as many of those classmates as possible to share their own letter with each of them. He can be reached at 919-323-1503.