I was recently made aware of the passing of my beloved fourth grade teacher. She was taken too quickly
from this earth and her classroom. I grieve with her family and the countless other students touched by
her gentle ways. I, perhaps more than anyone, feel she made a profound influence on my life.
I moved to a new town, I didn’t know a soul. Life had thrown a curve ball into my young life and I didn’t
always know how to handle it. I was unsure of myself. In some ways I felt scared of my own shadow.
With no one to turn to and no friends on the first day of school, it was my teacher who greeted me and
made me feel wanted, accepted even special.
Of course she didn’t just do that for me, she did it for all her students, but she had a special way of
making you feel like you were the only one that mattered. She encouraged me to run for student
council, to practice basketball (my favorite sport) while the other kids were playing on the playground
and to read books that challenged me. She saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. I thought
about the long bus rides home. She thought about college.
I realize now how tough her job was having been a teacher myself. She saw the heartache in so many
children’s eyes. Heartache I thought I shouldered alone. I was wrong. She knew all along what we would
come to find out as adults. She inspired a love for learning. She always kept the class a little bit warm
knowing some students didn’t have heat at home. She always had an extra coat, I never knew why. It
was always funny to me when my classmates would wear coats on cold days that looked exactly like
hers! I thought they must have shopped at the same stores…
I stayed after class once to for one reason or another, out of the corner of my eye I saw her slip a young
boy five dollars. I thought she must have been rich. That boy had a hot lunch for three days. He was so
excited he told everybody how good the food was. It was just cafeteria food. I have the feeling that
wasn’t the only time money came out of her purse and into the hands of the homeless. I visited her over
the years. She never changed. I left her class better than I was when I entered it. That was always a
Last night my aunt passed away. She wasn’t a teacher in the school sense, but she was a teacher of life if
there ever was one. Words of encouragement and council have emerged in my mind from years gone by
and what seemed like a much simpler time. I don’t know how she did it. We would be talking about
nothing at all while sitting on a porch swing overlooking the grassy fields and their accompanying deer
prancing in the distance, then we were talking about deity, our choices, life ambitions and the
importance of family. I wanted to be as wise as she was. I still want to be as wise as she was.
It is a gift to be believed in. It is a gift to be around someone you know cares about you more than you
might even care about yourself. I prayed it would snow so we wouldn’t be able to drive home the next
day. I woke up to the purest scene of white my ten year old self had ever seen. We got to spend four
more days with her. Four days that changed my life. I called her when she was sick. She wanted to know
how I was doing. She said it didn’t hurt. I’m sure it did. The lesson stayed with me. People over your own
They say that the influence of a teacher can never really be measured because their influenced and
wisdom are passed down through the generations. It’s true. Those that come after me will know of the
lessons I learned at the feet of two of the greatest teachers the world has ever seen. From my mortal
perspective, they were taken from the earth too soon, but as I sit back and reflect on their legacies, I
realize, they may be teaching me more now than ever.