For Valentines Day: A Love Letter to a Teacher

It's Valentine's Day and that means I need to write a love letter.

It's a letter that's been brewing since sometime last Saturday when I sat in a packed convention hall in Washington, D.C. at the Teach for America 20th Anniversary Alumni Summit.

There are undoubtedly many fantastic teachers that come into education through TFA. But... something about the conversations there made me start thinking about the many fantastic teachers I've met over the years who don't enter the education profession through the two-year service program.

I've taught with many of these regular, everyday non-TFA teachers, and this love letter is for one of them.

Dear Mrs. W,

Thank you for all the years you have put in working with children. And, on top of being so excellent with your own students, thank you for taking the time to mentor me.

I never told you this but in my second week of teaching, I felt overwhelmed and desperate. So, I asked my third graders who was the best teacher at our school, and they unanimously said your name.

However, you were also, according to them, the strictest, meanest teacher. How they knew this, since you taught fifth grade--and they had never had you as a teacher, I will never know, but they had plenty of stories about how strict you were. According to the kids, you did not play when it came to turning in homework or participating in class.

Interestingly enough, as they talked, their tales of how mean and strict you were morphed into, "Mrs. W is so nice..."

Those kids loved you, and that let me know that you were the teacher whose class I needed to sit in and observe every chance I got.

"C'mon down the hall on your lunch hour," you said in response to my request to watch your class. "You are welcome any time."

I saw how you integrated yourself into the school community, how you respectfully talked with parents in the hallways before and after school. You were also the queen of incorporating problem solving and tactile learning into your lessons. Yes, your lessons were so engaging, I often wanted to raise my hand and answer your expertly crafted questions!

Above all, you loved children and saw the inherent nobility in them. When you spoke to those kids, you were not speaking to people you thought you were superior to. The children were not lacking in anything -- you knew those kids were smart and capable. They just needed a little nurturing, and you did that so well.

So, Mrs. W, thank you for working so hard for our students, and thank you for being one of those veteran teachers who taught me how to teach. I owe many things to you and indeed, I can't thank you enough.

Much Valentine's Day Love,

Los Angelista


CV said…
Though we don't know each other, I've been perusing the #TFA20 Twitter feed, and just saw this. Amen! I think regularly about the three other 6th grade science teachers at Jane Long Middle School who are probably the only reason I'm still doing this work 8 years later. Many thanks to Mrs. Khaliq, Ms. Schneider, and Dr. Lloyd.
nick said…
What a lovely letter! I hope your mentor realises just how inspiring she is to others. I guess we can all think of someone who has inspired us in the same way, someone who didn't just muddle through the job but took it seriously and made a real difference to other people's lives.
Liz Dwyer said…
Nice to e-meet you and three cheers for those three teachers that supported your development as a teacher. Those veteran teachers don't get enough love, and they really really should.

I hope she does too. She made a real difference in so many lives and she deserves the kudos.

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