Nicknames Good and Bad – My Year as the Teacher’s Pet

I was a chubby kid with too-short bangs (mom, what were you thinking?).  I lived in the shadow of my center-stage brother who called me “B-Fink”.  Not a term of endearment I’m fairly certain.  (I adore him now and we are very close.)

School was not a place of refuge.  I was a slow reader.  During recess, my name apparently reminded kids of broccoli – which inevitably became my nickname.  Then this creative bunch figured Broccoli was too mundane.  So, like that temporary password you change to make more memorable, Broccoli became Veg – short for Vegetable.

I was hoping when we moved to South Florida in 4th grade I could leave my Veg/Broccoli/B Fink identities behind.  My brother was soon heading to boarding school.  Things were looking up.

I quickly secured a best friend named Susan.  But I also continued my lackluster academic performance.  A nickname was surely a recess away — hovering in the minds of those Florida kids with their blond hair and longer bangs.

That’s when Mrs. Nagle came along.

She placed me in the front row. When she read aloud Mrs. Piggle Wiggle and Old Yeller, she looked right at me.  She didn’t call on me unless I raised my hand.  And then she used my name.  My real name.

I was spellbound.

Mrs. Nagle didn’t use a red pen.  Instead she crouched by my desk and showed my how multiplication worked.  How short vowels operated.  How to diagram sentences – which I am still a fan of!  She introduced me to art history and greek mythology.  Vocabulary words were pure magic.

I went from Cs and Ds to Bs with an occasional A.   By the year’s end I received the Most Improved Award at the all school assembly.


We all want to be the teacher’s pet.  (Minus the backlash from the non-pets of course.)

The Bible says we are God’s precious possessions – which I will loosely translate as the Teacher’s Pet.

And He knows our real names.  We are his sheep.  When one of us goes astray, He calls us by name, searches for us, carries us.

So I don’t need any more Mrs. Nagles.  I have a Good Shepherd who is always with me.

He’s with you too.

And he calls you by name.

The only logical response is simply, Baaaaa.


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Check out Psalm 139.  This was my mom’s favorite.  If only God could have reminded her that she was NOT a hairdresser.


Lord, you have examined me
    and know all about me.
You know when I sit down and when I get up.
    You know my thoughts before I think them.
You know where I go and where I lie down.
    You know everything I do.
Lord, even before I say a word,
    you already know it.
You are all around me—in front and in back—
    and have put your hand on me.
Your knowledge is amazing to me;
    it is more than I can understand.

Where can I go to get away from your Spirit?
    Where can I run from you?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there.
    If I lie down in the grave, you are there.
If I rise with the sun in the east
    and settle in the west beyond the sea,
10 even there you would guide me.
    With your right hand you would hold me.

11 I could say, “The darkness will hide me.
    Let the light around me turn into night.”
12 But even the darkness is not dark to you.
    The night is as light as the day;
    darkness and light are the same to you.

13 You made my whole being;
    you formed me in my mother’s body.
14 I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way.
    What you have done is wonderful.
    I know this very well.
15 You saw my bones being formed
    as I took shape in my mother’s body.
When I was put together there,
16 you saw my body as it was formed.
All the days planned for me
    were written in your book
    before I was one day old.

17 God, your thoughts are precious to me.
    They are so many!
18 If I could count them,
    they would be more than all the grains of sand.
When I wake up,
    I am still with you.


Isaiah 43:7  

Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.

John 10:3

The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.


7 thoughts on “Nicknames Good and Bad – My Year as the Teacher’s Pet

Add yours

  1. I enjoyed reading your story. Your teacher sounds wonderful, and I know you modeled her generosity and kindness in your many years of teaching.
    It is always interesting how our early experiences can have such a powerful impact on our lives.


    1. Thank you for your feedback and kind words! We never forget those teachers and others who reach out and know our name. They make an impression that lasts a lifetime.


  2. Just what I needed to hear! You were and are a Mrs. Negal to many! I miss you at school ! I never knew this history! Thank you for sharing! Luv you!
    Your sister in Christ


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