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Mrs. France Obler


Mrs. Obler was always one of the best known teachers at Sunny Hills, starting in the early 60s and staying until the late 1980s. She taught English, journalism and directed school musicals. She even taught a class in writing plays, at least once. 


She was a dynamic woman who radiated good health and energy. She taught with a passion, meaning she was highly enthusiastic and tried as hard as she could to involve her students and make the subjects engaging to them. She taught novels, poems, plays and sometimes essays, and had a remarkable ability to discuss fictional characters in a way to make them seem real and contemporary. She called on students often and expected full participation. Her classes could be moving experiences, because of what we learned, and learned about ourselves.


As a journalism teacher, she was infinitely encouraging. She tried as much as possible to maintain a business-like setting, to prepare her young journalists for real world conditions. In each journalism class, she had a large number of talented students to teach and manage, and the atmosphere could become hectic. Mrs. Obler was human and honest enough to get angry once in a while, elated and delighted often, sometimes sad, and at all times an inspiration. 


Prior to coming to Sunny Hills, Mrs. Obler had never taught journalism or directed a play. She learned on the job, with some superlative students to keep a step ahead of. 


Mrs. Obler loved art and artistic performance. She thrilled to an exciting concert, drama or opera. She had — and has to this day — a gift for life.  She grew up in Roanoke, Virginia and attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., apparently during World War Two. 


She told me once she saved her nickels and dimes to buy a ticket to see the young sensation, Frank Sinatra, in about 1940!


Mrs. Obler would talk to us before and after class, and many became her personal friends. She was endlessly sympathetic to our teenaged woes, but also expected a lot of us. 


I can’t speak highly enough of Fran, as some of us call her. She meant a great deal to me, then and now.  No one ever encouraged me more, including as a writer. 


I would say Frances Obler lived life boldly. I don’t know if she liked this poem, but I dedicate it to her:


The world is

not with us enough.

O taste and see


the subway Bible poster said,

meaning The Lord, meaning

if anything all that lives

to the imagination’s tongue,


grief, mercy, language,

tangerine, weather, to

breathe them, bite

savor, chew, swallow, transform


into our flesh our

deaths, crossing the street, plum, quince,

living in the orchard and being


hungry, and plucking

the fruit.


— Denise Levertov, 1923-1997