I wanted one of my Love Letters to be to teachers, because … well, because teachers ARE love and NEED our love and support at this moment, more than ever. Then I remembered something I wrote years ago, which includes a letter to one very special teacher. I thought I’d share that with you, hoping my letter of love can serve as tribute to your beloved teachers too.
Teachers can be monumental in our lives. They are mentors, angels, coaches, cheerleaders, and even sometimes surrogate parents. I would bet money that you have a story about a teacher who made a difference in your life.
For me, that was Mrs. Daniel. I can’t claim her as my own. Many, many former students would name her as their favorite too. She was both my English teacher and my Theatre teacher, which made her extra special for me. She was tough and made you work hard, but she was always on your side.
I will never forget how disappointed she was to give me a D in Honors English. I left her no choice, of course. Though I was a good student in terms of reading and participating, homework was a burden I didn’t always bother with.
That particular semester I had even earned extra credit because, when given the assignment to memorize and recite a poem, I chose The Ballad of The Harp-Weaver by Edna St. Vincent Millay. All 30 stanzas! But the extra credit could not save me from my almost failing grade.
This makes me laugh now because it is pretty exemplary of my personality. I put energy into the things I care about, letting other things fall by the wayside. Like homework and well, home work, as in cooking and hanging pictures on the wall.
But Mrs. Daniel saw me. Sure, she gave me my well-deserved D but she also tapped me to assist her with choreography for our Show Choir. She considered me a leader in my haven of Theatre Arts and, bolstered by her confidence, I was able lead. She was a rock for me all through High School. When I needed a letter of reference years later, I called on her. Of course, she said. But it was how she said it that still touches my heart.
Mrs. Daniel left this World far too soon. When word got around of her illness former students responded en masse with letters of appreciation and well wishes. Her husband and daughter had to draw up a schedule for visitors because so many of us wanted to thank her in person. I had moved across the country by then and feared I wouldn’t be able to see her. But the stars aligned and I was granted the opportunity to visit with her one last time. A gift.
When assigned to write a thank you letter in a recent workshop, this came out in a flash.
Dear Mrs. Daniel,
Of course this letter was going to be yours right? When I think of people who had an impact on my life, there you are, top of the list. Thankful feels inadequate a word to describe how much you mattered to me. It fits, yes, but doesn’t seem intricate enough. You would know the perfect word and are probably smiling right now as I struggle to think of it. Trusting in my ability to call it up, waiting for me to work it through.
You were a mentor to me before I ever knew I needed one. As my English teacher, you fostered my love for the written word. As my theatre director, you fanned the flames of my passion for performing. More than that, you showed me, all of us, the power of art to transform our view of the World, to make a difference, to unite us, to expose injustice.
You saw something in me that has me forever shaking my head, questioning how I can live up to your faith in me. You spent time listening to what I had to say, offering me respect. You told me I was talented as if you were telling me the sky was blue. Because you believed in me, you paved a way for me to use my talent, and struck the balance of patience and encouragement as I fumbled around in my doubt. Time and again I was unsure. Time and again you waited it out. Time and again you gave me the opportunity to exceed my expectations of myself.
Writing this note of thanks makes me miss you anew. To say you were precious to me seems rudimentary. To say I am grateful is lacking. To say you were my once-in-a-lifetime hero gets closer. To say I love you doesn’t even feel enough.
Ah, but as I write this I remember. I had forgotten, but now I remember. I love you was the last thing I ever said to you. And, oh, I am grateful to my soul to have figured out in that moment that those were, in fact, the perfect words.
This is part of my Love Letters series. You can read more HERE!