Our Teacher Is Missing by Mary Frances Shura, 1992.
Eliza is a quiet girl, and she likes to be that way. Too many of her teachers try to make her be more “outgoing” or “lively.” Mostly, Eliza wishes that they would just leave her alone. That’s why she likes her new teacher, Miss Dixon. Miss Dixon is quiet and soft-spoken, like Eliza. Ben, the class bully, calls Miss Dixon “Mouse,” but in spite of that, Miss Dixon has no trouble controlling her class.
Then, one day, Miss Dixon doesn’t show up to class. The kids wait around for her, goofing off, but Eliza is really worried. She knows that it’s not like Miss Dixon. Soon, other kids start becoming concerned also, and other faculty members realize that Miss Dixon is missing. The principal arranges for a substitute teacher while they are looking for Miss Dixon, and the children continue wondering what could have happened to her. The students consider every possibility behind their teacher’s disappearance, from secret mafia connections and entry into the Witness Protection Program to alien abduction.
But, for Eliza, all these wild speculations, stupid jokes about their “Mouse” teacher being eaten by a cat, and the adults’ constant reassurances that they’re sure that there is a reasonable explanation and that no one should be “unduly concerned” are just not enough. Whatever happened to Miss Dixon, Eliza is sure that she would have come to school or at least called if she could. Eliza thinks that something terrible must have happened and that Miss Dixon needs help fast. If the adults won’t do anything about Miss Dixon’s disappearance, then she will!
Although Eliza’s friends Robin, Stephen, and Chris are worried about getting into trouble by playing detective, when they see how determined Eliza is, they agree to help. Soon, they realize that Eliza is right to be worried. Miss Dixon intended to be home over the weekend, but something happened to keep her from coming home. The more the children talk about what they really know about their teacher, the more they begin to put the clues together. Finally, they realize where Miss Dixon was right before she vanished, but the situation is serious. Miss Dixon is being held captive because she accidentally stumbled upon criminal activity. When one of their classmates is also in danger, Eliza shows everyone that even a quiet person can have the bravery and determination to do what needs to be done.
One of the themes of this book is about people’s perceptions of different personality types. Eliza’s teachers and even her parents underestimate her because of her quiet nature. Eliza resents their attempts to reshape her into a more outgoing, forceful person, not recognizing that her strengths are her intelligence, perceptiveness, and quiet determination to do the right thing. Being a loud person isn’t the same as being a competent person, although some people have that perception. However, the people around her come to understand her better in the end. Eliza also finds some unexpected sympathy with friends who understand her impatience with the shallow immaturity of the other kids and who also are content not to be completely understood by other people as long as they have the freedom to quietly be themselves.