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Meet Me in St. Louis

updated 07/10/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/10/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

There was nothing Linda Green's fifth-grade students wouldn't do for the teacher who showered them with love and learning, drove a black Corvette and decorated the classroom ceiling with optical illusion posters. "So the kids would have something to look at when they daydreamed," explains Green, now 53.

On the last day of the 1979 school year at Jackson Park Elementary School in University City, Mo., Green invited her 31 charges to reunite under the Gateway Arch in St. Louis at 2 p.m., June 20, 2000. And two-thirds of them showed up, some carrying the original invitations. "Even the boys had saved them," says an incredulous Green.

"Talk about cool! She was an incredible role model who embraced our craziness and wore platform shoes with fish in them," says Shoshana Ben-Yoar, who works for a nonprofit in Atlanta. "She once hid in a closet when we had a substitute teacher, to see how we behaved." Darren Johnson, now a St. Louis FedEx deliveryman, is still swooning. "She's as beautiful as she was then."

She still drives a Corvette and, as she has for 31 years, teaches Jackson Park students. "I was never afraid of losing my job, which allowed me to be myself," says the veteran, who after two divorces is again Miss Green. Former class clown Bob Jackson said it best: "Take me back to fifth grade, Miss Green!"

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