New York Library Association. - The eBulletin

Mayor Edward I. Koch: A Library Teacher Remember

By: Muriel Feldshuh

I was deeply saddened by the loss of  Mayor Edward I. Koch.  I kept a file on all the letters I’ve received from him and immediately went to look through the wonderful communication that I had with him over the years.  My last note was dated December 26, 2013.

I taught in P.S. 16, a  wonderful Elementary School in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.  As the Library Teacher I always enjoyed having the children engage in creative projects throughout the school year tying the themes into the curriculum areas.  Many of these projects garnered awards and  Mayor Koch’s name was affixed to the citywide winning awards.  Our school had been fortunate to have many visitors  to see the interesting programs that we had for children.  We were told that Mayor Edward I. Koch would be returning to the school in a few weeks to visit our school once again.  It was exciting news and I wanted to incorporate a lesson about NYC and the role of the Mayor in city life and things that a mayor does.

Many years before his visit I had designed a writing program I called ‘Producing Big Books.’  Children wrote and illustrated their own books which were sewn and bound and were proudly displayed in a special section in the library.  Over 250 books were created.  I talked about writing a book for the Mayor and presenting it to him when he visited the school.  The children loved the idea.  They collected newspaper articles and we learned about the work of the mayor and to make it more personal we included things that he especially enjoyed doing. We read that he loved the movies and enjoyed eating Chinese food.  We would be sure to include these things in our book.

After much research the children wrote a story and then illustrated each page.  I sewed the book together and we put a cover on it.  The title of our book was “A Day In The Life of Mayor Koch.”

It was the day of his arrival and everyone was excited.  The Library was the first room to be seen as Mayor Koch came up the stairs.  We were located on the second floor and as he entered the room I was giving a lesson.  Mayor Koch walked in and called out to the children...”Do you know who I am?”  The children responded and he was all smiles.  He had many brown spots on his face as we found out he had several skin spots removed by his dermatologist.  One of the children just called out and said that he looked like he had the measles.  He laughed and told them why he had those spots.

Mayor Koch looked around the library and two students got up to present the book we had made for him.  He read the entire book aloud and when he got to the page that said our mayor loves to eat chinese food he gave out a loud chuckle.  He called in his staff and photographer who traveled with him and several pictures were taken.   After complimenting the children and accepting the book he was thoroughly overwhelmed at this unique gift to him. Before he left the building he thanked me once again for the gift.

A short while later I received a letter from Mayor Koch.  He told me how much he enjoyed the drawings, captions and letters from the children and loved the Big Book writing program.  He said that “A Day in the Life of Mayor Koch” not only “made my day,” it will be cherished for many years to come”.  He went on to say that ‘its quality is so outstanding, that it will eventually take its place in the archives of the City of New York, where it may be perused by generations to come.”

And so in  1988, I began corresponding with the Mayor sending him samples of yearly calendars that I made with children on different topics, birthday cards, New Years greetings, get well cards and always received a letter in response.

My last card to him was on his 88th Birthday last December.  While looking through my teaching treasures I found photos taken on the day he visited the Library back in 1988.  I made copies sending them to him.  Shortly after I received a letter back from him with a hand written note attached.  He thanked me for sending them. He loved seeing the photos that brought back those very good memories .

Mayor Edward I. Koch will always be remembered by me as a wonderful NYC Mayor but also on the personal level of a very caring person.  I know that many of my students who shared the above experience and are now grown adults remember well his visit to our school library and meeting this great man in person