Speed Reads

It wasn't all bad

56 years later, 3rd grade classmates reunite with beloved teacher

It didn't matter that she had long been retired and her former students were now in their 60s — when Francinelee Hand reunited with her long ago third-graders last weekend, she went right back into teacher mode.

Hand taught at Sabal Palm Elementary School in north Miami, and her 1961-62 class adored her, with the now-adults remembering her art and music lessons and how she drove a convertible Corvette to school. She was 24 at the time, and not long after those students went on to the fourth grade, Hand moved to New York City, where she married and taught music and dance. Over the years, at high school reunions and later on Facebook, Hand's students would reminisce about their beloved teacher, always wondering, whatever happened to her?

Steven Goldman and Ellen Bressler Levine finally decided to track Hand down, and found her information online. Goldman wrote her a letter, asking if she was interested in a reunion. Hand, now 80, once again lives in Miami, and said she was happy to reconnect. Goldman and Levine invited as many of their old classmates as possible to a reunion in Miami, and last weekend, 12 of Hand's former students got together for a walk down memory lane.

The afternoon was spent looking at old photos, catching up, and Hand naturally leading conversations that felt like class discussions. Hand's students all wanted to share how much they appreciated her, like Susan Miller Schwartz, a retired Navy captain and assistant professor at West Point, who told the Miami Herald Hand was "the person who inspired me to go from being an average student to one who excelled. She taught you to look at the world out there and pay attention to it." Hearing all of this praise was "astonishing," Hand said, and "very rewarding."