I had a wonderful teacher in elementary school, and luckily I had him for 2 grades. He was my teacher for grade 5 and 7. This was a critical time for me, it was between grades 5-8 when my depression started and grew rapidly due mostly to bullying and general low self-worth.
Mr. S, you may never know how much of an impact you made on my life and likely many more of your students. You had a way of making students feel like they are smart and capable. You were a teacher that any student felt comfortable talking to. It was easy to respect you, without you having to be the “scary mean teacher” that some of the other teachers seemed to think they needed to be to be respected.
Being the quiet and shy student that I was, I rarely put my hand up to answer a question or participate in speaking out loud for any reason. I was always worried about being made fun of if I gave the wrong answer or just fumbled with my words. For some reason, with you, I felt a little more comfortable answering questions because I just wanted you to know that I knew the answers. You called on me a lot of the times that I had my hand up, probably because it wasn’t that often. When I would give a correct answer, you gave a little praise while telling me that is correct, which you did with other students in the class as well.
I remember a few very specific moments with you that I think about now and then. They were moments that made me feel smart and worthy and built up my self-confidence.
One day in grade 5, we were asked to pick a partner, and I chose my best friend at the time. One partner was to go into the hall and wait, while the other partner was inside being given instructions. I was out in the hall. When the half of us came back to the room, we were told that we were going to stand up and in front of the class, and you and your partner would speak. Yikes! The exercise was that the partner who received instructions was going to try to convince you to do something “bad” and you had to handle the peer pressure. So my partner was trying to convince me to try a cigarette. They said things about how it’s so cool, and how you’ll fit in with the popular crowd, blah blah blah. Easy enough exercise, we all knew that we had to say no, but it was about learning and practicing being asked in a pressuring way. I was a brick wall. I leaned against the wall and had my arms crossed, and just kept saying no. When she said I must be chicken for not trying it, I said I just don’t want to and don’t have to. I said I don’t care when she said it would make me cool.
Well, after we went through the entire class, Mr. S, you spoke a bit about what we did and mentioned a few of the things that were said that you really liked for responses. Then you began speaking about one student. You said this student didn’t just say no with their words, but with their body language as well. I wondered which person you were talking about, not even considering that I could possibly be the “stand out” student in this exercise. You described the body language and explained the importance of it, especially when trying to say no to something. You said this student told their partner they have no interest in anything they are saying. And then you said my name. Everyone kinda looked at me. I was a little surprised, but when I thought about it, I realized I was doing what you were saying. And I felt good about it.
One of my best subjects was math in grade 7. You often commented about my abilities in the subject. One day comes to mind here. We were learning “order of operations” or “bedmas” and you gave the class a worksheet with a bunch of equations to work on, and told us to come to hand it in when we finish it so you could mark it. You also told us we can come up to you with any questions.
I finished the sheet and felt confident that I did well. I went to bring it to you and joined in the lineup of about 5 students waiting to talk to you with their sheets. I figured some were asking questions, and some were handing it in for marking. When I got to the front, you told me I was the first one who finished. I was surprised because a lot of students had come up to you before me, but I guess they were all questions. As you went through and checked each one, giving checkmarks, you said: “this was too easy for you wasn’t it?” I can’t even explain to you how amazing this made me feel. After marking it perfect, you wrote a comment that said: “You know O.O.O!”
I could go on. Those were my most vivid memories. They say that people will forget the things you say, but will remember the way you made them feel. And you made me feel like I was worth it, and that I could accomplish anything I want, and I cannot thank you enough.