Below is an email I just sent to a teacher from my middle school. I tracked her down and just sent it today. I feel compelled to share the note since it’s Teacher Appreciation Week. The good teachers often may not know how powerful they really are. I’ve redacted her name for privacy.
Ms. [REDACTED FOR PRIVACY],
I hope you don’t mind me addressing you that way because that’s how I fondly remember you.
I’ve been wanting to reach out to you for years and I hope this message finds you well today.
Funny it’s Teacher Appreciation week….so perhaps this message is fitting and timely to express my appreciation for you.
I don’t know how many hours, days, weeks and months I’ve spent in public schools growing up. I’m sure it’s thousands upon thousands of hours. But out of all of that time in school, there were five minutes that mattered to me the most.
Let me set the scene to one day back in 1993.
Back at Swope Middle School you taught Speech and Debate. From what I recall, this class was my favorite class because students were free to be themselves in such a positive environment. You made it that way. You were such a great teacher.
On this particular day I had a presentation.
Being a student who struggled with grades and essentially saw school as an obstacle, I, for some reason made sure I would do my best on this presentation. I wanted to impress you.
After I spoke before the class and received applause, I sat down and I remember feeling felt pretty good.
But here’s where something extraordinary happened in all of my time in the public school system.
You pulled me aside after class and sat me down near your desk. It was just me and you in the classroom.
You began to cry and then said these words:
“Jeremy, I honestly believe you’re going to make it someday. I really believe that. You’re going to make it.”
At first I felt awkward and sad you were crying and didn’t really understand when you said I would “make it.”
Then I understood you were talking about success in life in general.
As a C student and as kid who felt out of place in school with a dangerous lack of confidence in academics, I can’t express enough to you how much that five minutes impacted my life.
My mother and father worked hard to give me what I wanted growing up and they instilled in me with much confidence as a child.
However, you were the first person outside of my family circle, within the public school system to sincerely express your belief in me.
And since then, you were the only one. You were the only teacher to tell me I had talent and worth.
You were the first teacher to make me feel valued as a student. You saw more than my grades. You saw me for me. It didn’t matter at that moment that I failed English the prior year.
You did something powerful for me.
Anytime I was feeling down about myself, I would think about that five minutes. And I still do think about that brief moment often.
I’m not sure if you remember me or not since you’ve thought hundreds of children, and that’s just fine by me.
I just wanted to say I will always remember you. Always.
Thank you, from the very bottom of that middle school kid’s heart.
P.S. Today, I’m an investigative journalist for the leading television station in Colorado and have won some pretty good awards over the years for my work. I speak in front of thousands of people now. Quite the increase in audience since that day in Speech and Debate! Thanks for your inspiration over the years. All the best for you and your family.