Mrs. McDaniels

Catherine Amburgey, Co-Editor in Chief

Q: What were your first impressions of Ms. Frank? 


A: I actually had a really great first impression, and she’s one of the main reasons I chose to come to Berkeley. She was very honest and candid, like she always is. She actually told me that she hates Florida. I had never even been to Florida, and my first time here was for my interview as a new Latin teacher. She was very upfront and said that she was only in Florida because of Berkeley. I thought that if she hates the state so much but is willing to stay for the school, the job is actually worth moving for. She was the main reason that I was convinced to come for this job, and we discovered pretty quickly that we had very similar styles of teaching. We both were very focused on grammar and very driven in terms of getting our students to learn the information they needed to be successful. We just really meshed in that regard and became really good friends because we both have a similar kind of sarcastic wit. We just always made each other laugh.


Anything I needed, she was always there for questions. Technically another teacher was my mentor my first year, but [Ms. Frank] was really my mentor. Any question I had, I asked her because she was right here. She was never annoyed with my questions, and I have a lot of them because I’m that Type A kind of person, but she was like that too, so she understood any unease I had about not knowing something.


Q: What traits do you associate with Ms. Frank? 


A: Definitely her sarcastic wit. She also loved dogs. I love dogs too but her love of dogs was beyond me. Her dogs were her children in every respect. She really helped me get through the loss of my dog. One of my favorite memories was when she took me out to eat because I just found out my dog had cancer. Of course, neither one of us ever dreamed that she would be gone from the same thing a year later. Since she saw her dogs as people, she reached out to me when I found out that my dog was dying. She was one of the only people who truly understood the loss of my dog and now there’s no one who shares the loss that I had for her. 


I definitely get that a lot of people found her intimidating. I mean her height alone was enough to be intimidating, but once you got to know her, she really was just a teddy bear. She was someone you could tell anything to, and she was always comforting. I sometimes think she liked being a little intimidating to some people because she was introverted enough that she wouldn’t just want random people coming in and chatting with her. She wants to get to know you and so the fact that if she scared a few people off that’s okay. She’s close with this group of people and that’s what she really cared about: being there for the people she loved.


Q: What are some of your favorite memories of Ms. Frank? 


A: I had an amazing time at the State Latin Forum with her. I’m sad that we only got one because we ended up not having one this past April. I loved hanging out with her in her hotel room. We had a blast while the students were off doing their competitions and things, so we just hung out together and had a great time. Our friendship definitely went way beyond the walls of this classroom. We hung out outside of school and we texted each other all the time. Even today, there are moments throughout the day that I’d really love to tell Jen this but she’s not here. It’s been tough getting past how I want to share my experiences with her, but she’s not here anymore. Being in this classroom is still really hard for me every day, as those lingering memories are always here. 


We didn’t necessarily see eye to eye on our favorite authors and such. We did have different interests in terms of Latin. We both love Latin obviously, but I was a huge Cicero fan. I loved the way his speeches worked and the way they influenced his audience. She hated Cicero. I couldn’t stand Tacitus. I thought he was the hardest author I’d ever read and he leaves out verbs all the time, but she loves him. I think it’s really great that we still had a strong bond over Latin, even though our interest in literature didn’t necessarily match up. It was another great experience to have someone else to talk about that kind of thing with because I haven’t really had someone that I could talk to about Latin since I was in grad school. It was really great to have someone always here that I could talk about one of the things that I love most in life. I hope she felt the same way.


She gave me so much stuff, even as I was transitioning into this role now. She left her entire library to me so I literally got boxes of books from her. She wanted me to have them and the fact that she wanted me to have them was the greatest honor. She knew that I was someone who loves books and would love her books. When she let me know that her time was almost up, the first thing she said was that she wanted me to have her books. I know that sounds kind of silly, but knowing how much she loves her books, it was a really touching experience.


Q: What was her impact on the Latin community at Berkeley? 


A: She was the Latin program. There was always a joke that the person in my position is the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher from Harry Potter because that person changed literally every year. She really was the constant that came with all the change. She had the same classes every year with the same students, so she was able to bond a lot with a particular group. She got to know them throughout the years, which is great as the students had an adult on campus that they could go to with any problem and who really cares about them. Even on the first day of school this year, I could see the loss. Not all of them cried. I cried. The loss was very present for everyone. Whether there were tears or not, you could tell they missed having that person. So, I think her impact was tremendous. She is irreplaceable in my eyes. Obviously, I’ve taken over a lot of her classes, but I am not trying to be her replacement because I know I can’t be. She was wonderful and I worship her and I miss her so much.


It’s even harder because now with covid, kids can’t just come in her room and hang out whenever. There were students who lived in her room, whether they had a class that period or not. They might come in here and take a nap because there’s nowhere else for them to sleep comfortably or they might just want a quiet place to do their homework. Maybe, they need a snack. There were always snacks for them. It was a safe haven for any student who needed it, whether they took Latin or not. This was always a safe space, and I hope it can continue to be after covid. 


I don’t even know if it mattered what she taught. I think she would have made any subject appealing to her students because as long as she loved it, they would love it. I think that’s true for a lot of great teachers: the thing that makes them a great teacher is that they love what they do. She loved working with children, and she loved teaching Latin so being able to have a job that combines those two things is what made her a great teacher. Her knowledge of the background history really brought Latin alive for her students in a way that you can’t really do with something like Math. At the upper levels of Latin, it’s more of a literary analysis course and not just grammar, so she really was able to show students that even though these words were written thousands of years ago, we still feel the same way about life. Helping students to get to that point is what really made them appreciate Latin and love her class. 


Even though she kept to herself, the impact she had on Berkeley definitely went beyond these walls. Many of her students are in college or out of college and she still kept in contact with so many of them. I think that relationship with alumni is something that benefits all of Berkeley, not just the Latin students. It was so special that they wanted to keep in contact with her and would reach out to her, not the other way around. It really goes to show what a wonderful teacher she was and the impact that she had on her students. Even just going through the files on her computer, one of her former students sent her their senior thesis because they wanted her to read it. Even though it wasn’t about Latin and was about Math, they wanted her to read it. That’s the kind of teacher she was: that she would still read it even if she didn’t understand.