Barbara Alva, a Fontana Teachers Association member and a history teacher at Summit High School, doesn’t always hear from parents of her students, so she was especially touched to get this response to her email from a grateful parent regarding her son’s progress.
Hi Ms. Alva,
I am extremely glad that he is making an effort as well. I know he has it in him. He showed me his PowerPoint presentation this morning and told me how you helped him insert the video portion, apparently he did not know how to do this. He now seems to be proud of it and is working on it more. I owe a lot to you for reaching out to him and not giving up. Just to see him engage is exciting for me. I just received your new email. I feel like crying right now. I will make sure he gets the assignments done and what I am seeing on the Power point he just may be able to do this.
You truly deserve Teacher of the Year and I am serious when I say that. The spark you started in him will make a world of difference in his future. You will be someone that when his kids are struggling he will say I had this teacher and she wouldn't give up on me and didn't let me give up on myself.
Mathieu H. Austin, a member of the Acton-Agua Dulce Teachers Association and a business teacher at Vasquez High School in Lancaster, was pleased to find out the impression he made on one former student. Austin writes, “This is the most recent and the most humbling letter I’ve ever received.”
Dear Mr. Austin,
On Monday I started college. I chose business as my major, not because I expect to be a rich entrepreneur or because I want to rule the stock market. I chose business because the theories and relevance of the field of flowing money and transactions interest me. The relationship between the details of the legal aspects and the general picture of a successful venture is something that I want to learn more about and ultimately apply in my life. Maybe I’ll want to build headphones, maybe I’ll want to set up a record label, maybe I’ll want to be a valuable asset to an existing company. I might not always succeed in everything I pursue, but I will be knowledgeable enough to pursue dreams without getting caught in loopholes and (hopefully) debt. You were my favorite teacher, and not just because of my grade. You made sure things weren’t vague, you took an active role in teaching, you graded fairly based on content and not semantics, and you gave me hope for a higher education. I wanted to take the time to thank you for all you’ve taught me, and the way you taught it. I hope many more students of all kinds get as much out of your class as I did. And, I appreciated your sense of humor.
At a time when school librarians are being laid off, it is important to remember their roles in a student’s life, as Karen Boyarsky, a librarian at Beverly Hills High School and member of the Beverly Hills Education Association discovered. She received a letter from Sandy Anahi Chamorro, a non-English-speaking immigrant student whose world was rocked when she began spending time in the school library.
"While wandering around and checking out the books, many caught my attention, such as languages. It’s beautiful to understand where the words we speak every day come from. And it amazes me that now, learning my fifth language, Russian, I am powerful enough to start a business around the world. Thanks to a little red Latin book in the language section, I know how to encode what people are saying. … I would like to thank Mrs. Boyarsky, Dr. Ramsey and Ms. Sedgi for being the first ones to teach me English, Joe Wianeki for always keeping it real, and Barbara Palmer for being so strict. You definitely put me on the right path to success, and I will keep going that way. One day I will come back to Beverly Hills and Beverly Hills High School’s library is the first destination."
Kim Delgado, a kindergarten teacher at Oneonta Elementary School in Imperial Beach and member of the Southwest Teachers Association, most often receives drawings from her students, but sometimes she receives notes from parents. The letter below is from the parent of an English learner whose first language is Tagalog. Her son learned English in Delgado’s classroom.
Take care of the plant ma’am as it grows… John grows
mature too, physically, emotionally but
most of all spiritually.
One great reason is
because of you ma’am
We really do appreciate
all your untiring efforts
loving, taking care of 25 kids.
THANK YOU SO MUCH
We’ll always remember you ma’am
as John grows up in years.
Take care always.
Hearing the news of the tragic death of a student at Granite Bay High School prompted a former student of history teacher Brandon Dell’Orto to write him a note this spring. Now at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Christy Johnson was attending a student conference with President Obama when her mind drifted back to her high school teachers. In an e-mail to Dell’Orto, she wrote:
"The person who I am, the person who I’ve become, my goals, my ideas, my ethics, the reason that I am at Georgetown, and ultimately, the reason that I momentarily was sitting 10 feet from one of the most influential men in all of history all stem from my time within the Granite Bay community.
In classes like yours we are all challenged to open our minds, we are encouraged to find enjoyment through learning, and we are all inspired to be the change the world needs to see.
So today, when I sat with 300 other students and was told by our president that we would need to accomplish all of the things that he cannot, I immediately thought of all of my high school teachers because you all are the ones who are really changing the world."
Noticeably touched, Dell’Orto, a member of the Roseville Secondary Education Association, commented in an e-mail to staff, “In the midst of tragedy, testing upon testing, taxes, tax battles and the like, it’s nice to know that sometimes what we do does get through.”
Kim Franklin, a member of the El Dorado Union High School District Faculty Association, received a letter of thanks from the parent of a special education student taking her health class at Oakridge High School. Kim writes, “This is one of the favorite ‘thank yous’ that I have received, I think because it was very unexpected. It reminds me that as teachers, particularly in high school, we touch more lives than we realize.” (For privacy reasons, we’ve changed the student’s name.)
Ms. Franklin, to say the least, I have been so incredibly impressed with what Joe is learning from you, that both myself and his father are in awe. We keep asking ourselves, ‘Is this our son?’
As you know, Joe has been in special ed since fifth grade. Getting him to learn, succeed and just about ‘absorb’ anything has been a challenge. In your class, he has exceeded our expectations. Not only does he ‘get it,’ he appears to be applying this knowledge in his everyday life. He truly loves your class and seems to admire and respect you as a teacher. I hope that shows in class, although Joe is not too good at expressing feelings and emotions. Nevertheless, he has his own subtle style.
I don’t want to take much more of your time, but I felt that writing this e-mail and acknowledging your superb teaching skills and innate ability to get through to this sometimes difficult generation of kids was long overdue. Furthermore, I wanted you to know the impact you have made on our son, and to also be aware that very few teachers and adults have succeeded in such a task.
JoNellia Guinn, a member of the Association of Classified Employees, has received numerous letters in her 15 years as principal secretary at Culver City High School. She forwarded a few, noting, “It’s letters like these that make my job so rewarding.” One of those letters was from a graduating senior.
Dear Mom Guinn,
Thank you for your words of encouragement and for helping me through this college process. Thank you for always having a positive attitude and making me want to be a better person. Culver City High School could not function productively without you. You are the heart and soul of the entire school. Please keep in contact with me after high school because I consider you family and now you are stuck with me!
Connie Iglesias, a high school guidance counselor and Castro Valley Teachers Association member, started Mujeres, a program at Castro Valley High, to assist socially or economically disadvantaged girls in grades 10-12. She receives psychic rewards every time one of the students in the group gains entrance to college, but it’s always gratifying to receive a note from them, like the one that follows from a student now attending UC Santa Cruz.
Thank you so much for supporting me when I needed your help. Thank you for pushing me always. You are an incredible role model. Thank you for all that you do for me. I love all the advice and care you have given me. Don’t forget me. I love you. Thank you for being incredible.
Leigh Ann McCready, a veteran Milpitas Teachers Association member, has kept one letter of thanks from a parent since 1985, when she was a student teacher being supervised by her father, a 39-year teacher. Her dad told her to hang on to it because there would be days when she needed it. Apparently it was advice taken.
She writes, “The letter still hangs on a bulletin board in my home office, and there have been days in the past 26 years that I have needed its gentle reminder. There are other thank-you notes that I’ve collected over the years, but this one continues to remind me why I chose this field.”
Because you took the time to let me know how Linda is doing in your class (which makes me very proud of her), I thought I’d let you know how well you are doing with her. I can remember when Linda hated history. She now comes home and tells me how interesting you make it. She tells me she’s not bored anymore and that she really likes it! You must be one good teacher. Keep up the good work. We need you!
Joni Micals, a special education teacher and member of the Hart District Teachers Association, has developed a cache of thank-you notes since 1975, the year she started teaching. One of her former students wrote:
“In the two years of you being my teacher, you helped me to control my temper better and brought my grades [up]. … Before I met you, I was any teacher’s worst nightmare, but somehow you calmed me down. Before I met you, my history grades were terrible, but you make it fun to where I wanted to learn.”
It was just a short note. Four words. But it meant a lot to Mardiece Patrick, a third-grade teacher at Truckee Elementary School and a member of the Tahoe-Truckee Education Association, who sent us an e-mail that read:
“A student gave me a note the last day of school which ready simply, ‘You changed my life.’ I will never forget it, because that’s why I do what I do!”
Johanna Rauhala, a seventh-grade English and history teacher and a member of the Mount Diablo Education Association, was thrilled to receive an e-mail this year from a student she taught 12 years ago. “This young man had been a student of mine 12 years ago,” she writes. “He was born in Afghanistan, had been living in Saudi Arabia, but was visiting the U.S. for only one year. When I read his words, I am reminded of the power of literature and the humanity of our work.”
I was in the U.S. for a year only, but that year made a huge difference to me in many ways: culturally, socially, academically, and in more ways that I can describe.
I spent some time recalling the memories I had there and they were very fond indeed: reenacting a scene from “Number the Stars,” a novella that deeply touched me; I wasn’t aware of the persecution of the Jews during WWII until then. Also, I remember having so much fun cracking a coconut open with a rock under a candlelight with fellow classmates (it was my first time eating a coconut as well) and drawing woolly mammoths with chalk. I think the project was to experience what it was like to be a caveman.
Anyway, I doubt you remember and I don’t really expect you to reply to this strange and unexpected e-mail, but I just want to say thanks for everything you did. I have a great deal of respect for all of my old teachers that put the time, effort, patience, creativity and sincerity to my education, growth and well-being. It was a great experience, and I hope to never forget that memorable year in your classroom.
Lenn Schwartz, a teacher-librarian member of the Firebaugh-Las Deltas Unified Teachers Association, was surprised this summer to hear from Andrew Valencia, one of the students in his middle school language arts class nine years ago. Valencia, who has been teaching English abroad before applying to graduate schools in creative writing, e-mailed his former teacher in July:
"I’m writing to let you know that, nearly a full decade later, I still remember you as one of the first teachers I ever had who really opened my eyes to the world of writing and literature. I still remember you reading to the class from Steinbeck’s Cannery Row and encouraging me to read Saroyan and other writers. That was the first real exposure I had to great literature, and it helped me develop a love for the written word as well as a desire to write fiction myself. These many years later, I have come a long way from the kid I was in the eighth grade; I graduated last year from Stanford with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in history."
Ann Sims, a Lake Elsinore Teachers Association member, keeps a letter from one of her eighth-grade students framed on her wall.
She says, “It reminds me how very important my job is and how the slightest word or look can ultimately change my students’ lives forever. Continually, my students humble me as a person and a teacher.”
I was waiting for you to finally drop me, to finally give up on the lost cause I thought I always was. I was waiting ever so impatiently for that bomb to just drop, just as it had so many times before. But you didn’t let it. You refused to give up the hope you had for me. Because of this, I finally, for once in my life, have hope for myself.
When I was going in all the wrong directions, you gently showed me the right way. When I was caving in, you were always there to put my pieces back in place. You not only helped fix me, you gave the necessary tools to help me deal in the future.
P.S. You have helped inspire me to fulfill my dream of being a writer. One of these days, you are going to see one of my books sitting on a bookshelf in the library, just wait!
Lisa Wilander, a member of the College of the Desert Faculty Association, received a poem from a student she counseled.
If I could teach you, teacher,
I’d teach you how much more
You have accomplished
Than you think you have.
I’d show you the seeds
You planted years ago,
that are now coming into
I’d reveal to you the young
minds that have expanded
under your care.
The hearts that are serving others
because they had you as a role model.
If I could teach you, teacher,
I’d show you the positive
effect you’ve had on me
and my life.
Your homework is
To know your value to the world.
To acknowledge it.
To believe it.
Thank you, Teacher.
Sometimes it takes a few years for students to look back in appreciation for their teachers. It wasn’t until a Fairfield police officer heard his former elementary teacher, CTA President Dean Vogel, on the radio that he decided to drop him a line.
"You may or may not remember me, but I did want you to know that your guidance and leadership had a lasting effect. I still have good memories of the class singing while you playing the guitar or you reading from a book called Where the Sidewalk Ends. I know I was a handful to deal with throughout elementary (and you stayed on top of my actions). I wanted to send you a VERY late but well-deserved THANK YOU for your commitment to leadership, education, and for not giving up on me."