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Teacher’s Pets

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Happy Birthday, Miss Jones, March 17, 1956, was inspired by a beloved teacher from Rockwell’s youth.
© SEPS

In the aught years of the previous century, a certain teacher (named Smith, not Jones) had a certain young pupil by the name of Norman Rockwell in her classroom. Rockwell was not a strong student, but Smith recognized his artistic flair. Happy Birthday, Miss Jones is his tribute to the woman who encouraged him to draw.

Film directors Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have described Rockwell’s work as cinematic, and this one is a prime example. Though it consists of a single “frame,” one can imagine an entire scene prior to the teacher’s arrival: children neatly placing gifts on her table, scrawling greetings on the blackboard, the sudden rush back to their desks as they hear Miss Jones approaching (suggested by the chalk and eraser on the floor). Then there’s the class clown, playing for laughs by placing an eraser on his head.

This cover inspired numerous letters to the editors, including one from Laura R. Jones, of Atlanta, who wrote that she had known a moment just like this. She had walked into her classroom to find a cake decorated with the words We love Miss Jones. Whenever she faced a dark day of exhaustion and discouragement, she wrote, the memory of those bright, eager faces kept her going and in love with her work.

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  • Steven Solfrian Vojvoditz

    Norman Rockwell’s paintings are superb. I never lived in America, but my dad did for 21 years. I discovered the beauty and finest humor in Rockwell when dad sent me the painting of the lion in the cage, hoping for the bread with ham that belongs to the guardian… The drawing about the school class fond of their she teacher on her birthday is so endearing! Rockwell goes straight to my heart. He is an artist Americans can be proud of, even a century later. Kudo’s. Steven, Louvain, Belgium