Jean Croker Petke

When did your love begin?

When did your love begin?

My love of beautiful letters and words began in Mr. Wagner’s sixth grade class. At our school he was also the band director, the shop teacher, and the bus driver. He was known among students as a great science teacher. It was a big deal to finally be in his class.

If we had extra time after we finished our assignment, he allowed us to work at a separate table near his desk. On this table were bottles of colored inks, lettering pens, stacks of paper, and Speedball textbooks. He gave us brief instruction regarding the inks and care of the pens. After that we were on our own to practice and create.

Why he provided such activity for us I will never know. Perhaps he loved lettering, perhaps it was a skill he practiced or used, perhaps he was a wanna-be calligrapher. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that working at that table is my fondest memory of sixth grade. With practice, I made beautiful letters.

Fast forward to my mid-thirties: a calligraphy class in the adult ed brochure captured my attention. Immediately my memory returned to sixth grade and my love of lettering. The class met one night a week, cost was minimal, and the schedule was compatible with my family’s life. I signed up.

The first night of class, I learned about special fountain pens, practice guidelines and basic cursive strokes. This calligraphy was certainly a cut above Mr. Wagner’s Speedball books and it was difficult. I persevered through challenging pens with scratchy nibs. My words and letters gradually improved with daily practice. Eventually we learned to create our own projects, turning our practice into quotations suitable for framing. I was hooked!

Two years later, my calligraphy teacher resigned and asked me to take her place. I was thrilled and honored. For the next several years I taught calligraphy to adults, created my own projects and gifts, did calligraphy for commission, and won first prize at the local art show.


For me, there’s something about putting ink to paper that transforms words into art and heightens their communication. The more I work, the more creative I become. Time slips away until it’s just me and the words.


What is it you love to do? And when did your love begin?

Such passion, such engagement, such immersion . . .

Someone exposed you to it, or someone’s creation touched you personally, or a fascination rose within you.

What’s happened to your love? Are you engaged in it or have you set is aside, for some excuse or another? What would it take to reignite your passion?

For me — and perhaps for you — we come alive when we are creating, when our passion overflows, taking on its own life.

And when someone inquires about why or how or what, you simply say, “This is what I do.”

Until next Tuesday . . .


2 Comments - Leave a Comment
  • Mary Patton -

    Jean: I remember Mr Wagner well. My kids had him for Jr Hi Science and his class was always their favorite. The treat of the year was when Mr Wagner taught summer school. His science class was a highlight. All 3 of my kids took piano lessons from his wife, Esther. I’ve been to many piano recitals there. Mary

    • jcpetke -

      Thanks, Mary, for sharing this connection. I wish I had known his wife. I rode his bus every day for eight years so he was part of every school day for me.

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