The RV Chronicles — Goodbye, Mrs. Chips (Recipe: Broiled Ham & Cheese Tomatoes)

There’s a scene in Mr. Holland’s Opus in which a retiring band director is surprised by the return of his former students. Similarly, the 1939 film Goodbye, Mr. Chips is centered around a once-surly teacher who ultimately leaves footprints of great depth and breadth with his young learners.

My ‘Mr. Chips’ was Sylvia Trussell.

I came across her photo and a few paragraphs about her life early this past week during my daily browsing of the online obituaries. There were no memories that suddenly flooded my mind, because Mrs. Trussell was unforgettable to begin with.

‘I’m five-ten and I have a size 11 foot,’ Mrs. Trussell announced in a blaring monotonous tone – much like one would expect to hear from a military drill instructor. ‘I’ve raised kids who are bigger than I am … and I know how to use that size 11 foot.’

As quickly as she warned us, Mrs. Trussell smiled widely and welcomed us to fourth grade.

Sylvia Trussell was a peculiarity among the teachers who had the misfortune of seeing my name on their roster. While her colleagues wore skirts and concerned themselves with the latest Junior League-inspired hairstyle, Mrs. Trussell mainly made certain her nylon pants were clean and that her coiffure didn’t look like it was pressed into a pillow the night prior.

‘It’s not your IQ. It’s your I Do.’

While many of her professional cohorts sat in the teachers’ lounge talking about who knows what, Sylvia Trussell used the time to take slow drags from her beloved cigarettes. She couldn’t care less about the upcoming Dallas episode or that the United Kingdom had its first female prime minister. Or, at least she didn’t show it.

Yes, Mrs. Trussell was real.

And she was among the very few teachers in all my years who understood the true beauty of grey.

While she forbade me from decorating a Christmas tree at the local Lions Club with some fellow gifted & talented students (I’d been arguing with someone and had become rude), Mrs. Trussell carried out only a heart-to-heart with a classmate who cursed at her. The reason, as I later learned, was that the young lady had a home life that was anything but loving.

I don’t remember what academics I learned in fourth grade. Neither do I recall the subject taught from Mrs. Trussell’s podium. She taught me something far more valuable as she ended an argument between a classmate and me about who was smarter.

‘It’s not your IQ. It’s your I Do.’

That trite little mantra still sits at the forefront of my mind.  And my children’s.

It’s been almost 40 years since Mrs. Trussell gifted me her wisdom and, though I’ve not seen her size 11 foot in almost as much time, she will remain with me always.

Goodbye, Mrs. Trussell.


I’m not even sure of the basis for the lesson, but one of my more memorable moments in Mrs. Trussell’s class was when everyone was to bring a type of food that no one had likely ever tasted. Some kids brought wild game; others brought unusual baked goods. I brought Limburger Cheese. (Surprised?)  If I’d been interested in positive attention, I would have considered something like these Broiled Ham & Cheese Tomatoes. Catherine came up with these some time ago, and they always disappear quickly.

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Broiled Ham & Cheese Tomatoes


Broiled Ham & Cheese Tomatoes — The attention-getters on your next appetizer spread


5.0 from 2 reviews
Broiled Ham & Cheese Tomatoes
Broiled Ham & Cheese Tomatoes — The attention-getters on your next appetizer spread
Recipe type: Appetizer
Serves: 10
  • 4 oz – thinly sliced Black Forest ham
  • 10 – Small (Half-dollar size) Tomatoes
  • 4 slices – Mozzarella cheese, each cut into 4 strips
  • 6-8 strips – Roasted red peppers, diced
  • 2 TB – Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 TB – Red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp – Italian seasoning
  1. Combine olive oil, red wine vinegar and Italian seasoning; whisk and set aside.
  2. Cut off the top portion of the tomatoes; using a spoon, carefully scoop out the pulp and seeds.
  3. Roll/fold a slice of ham to be about the same width of the cheese.
  4. Place cheese strip on top of ham.
  5. Spread about 2 tsp of the roasted peppers atop the cheese.
  6. Top with another slice of rolled/folded ham.
  7. Roll tightly and carefully place in tomato, flat side up.
  8. Repeat until all tomatoes are filled.
  9. Drizzle stuffed tomatoes with olive oil mixture.
  10. Place under a broiler until cheese is melted, about 4 minutes.



  1. Kathryn @ anotherfoodieblogger says:

    Wow great appetizer idea! Plus all our tomatoes are that size this year, they came out really small for some reason.

    • adamjholland says:

      Thanks, Kathryn. What variety are you growing?

      • Kathryn @ anotherfoodieblogger says:

        The package says they are “small to medium” heirloom tomatoes, bred specifically for Central Oregon. Yes, they sure produce a lot of tomatoes, but they are small, small, small! No mediums in the bunch!

        • adamjholland says:

          OK.. For one, heirloom tomatoes are not “bred.” They are what they are. I’m assuming that these are short season tomatoes (i.e. Jersey tomatoes).

  2. Catherine should be commended for this recipe as should Mrs. Trussell who taught fourth grade. Geesh—God bless all elementary teachers everywhere.

    • adamjholland says:

      Thanks, Debra. And you are so right about elementary teachers … and middle school teachers … and those with the intestinal fortitude to teach high school. Bless them!

  3. The recipe looks fantastic but the memory is my favorite of this post. Your Mrs. Trussell sounds like my Mr. Jayne. I met in in 11th grade and was forever changed, knowing that there was a whole world out there beyond my little redneck town. I hadn’t thought of him in a year or two – thanks!

  4. Hi, Adam! Thanks for your recent encouragement… I’m still playing catch up (ketchup?!) if/whenever I can. Goodness, your tomato-ey dish appealed to me ( was thinking of doing a grilled version) — so did your heart-felt tribute to your influential 4th grade teacher. Mine was named Petra Anderson (a pint-sized opposite of Miss Trussell, although I can relate to Ms. T’s big feet. 🙂 God bless the folks who’ve spurred us on in our adult lives, especially at that awkward age! Loved your thoughts and recipe, xo.

    P.S. Thanks for your tip on fried shrimp ala paper plate (vs. paper towel) in your other fantabulous post/recipe. I’d buy your house if I could, and and my hubby would appreciate the urinal 🙂 Our “compromise”: the last one to use it puts the COVER down — forget the “seat up/seat down” controversy!.No more “midnight dips” for moi, LOL!!!

    • adamjholland says:

      And I would so sell y’all the house, if I could. I’d even throw in a urinal cover (although I didn’t know they existed) and a year’s supply of urinal cakes for your hubby’s enjoyment. 😉

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