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Former Students: Always in my Heart

A few weeks ago my husband and I went out for our date night.  We went to Slater's 50/50.  A friendly man with a beard took our order and assisted us in our menu selections.  When he brought the bill he said, "I know this is weird, but I think you were my middle school teacher."
I stared at his bearded face, focused on his piercing blue eyes, and said, "What's your name?" 
He answered, "Matt-"  
I interrupted him before he could say his last name by saying it for him. 
"Oh my gosh!  You remember me?" he asked in disbelief. 
 "Of course I remember you!" I responded.  I also remembered that he was raised by a single mom who had him when she was just fourteen-years old.  I remembered  he had  hair that had been bleached white from the sun, and  he was a total jokester.  He was my student in 1996 when he was in eighth-grade.  He proceeded to apologize for being such a "bad" kid and troublemaker.  I reassured him that I had no such memory of him being either.  Well, actually there was a time when he asked me if we could listen to music.  When I asked him what it was, he said Jimmy Buffet. That sounded harmless enough to me, so I agreed.  He popped the cassette in the player, cranked up the volume, and some very inappropriate lyrics blasted through the speakers for all ears to hear.  Of course, the kids thought it was hilarious; I had to pretend to be furious and responded accordingly.  I have never forgotten this moment, and to this day, I Google any song lyrics before playing music for my class! 

We always talk about how teachers have had such an impact on our lives,but I can't tell you how my students have had an impact on my life-each and every one of them.  I thought I'd share the first few that come to mind.

When I taught high school, my principal came to me and told me that I would have a young man in a wheelchair in my class.  I was a new teacher and nervous!  Where would he sit?  What would he need help with?  I'll never forget the first day of school when he came racing into my class like Mario Andretti.  He had a huge smile on his face and immediately introduced himself.  In fact, when I asked if someone could help pass back papers, he was the first to volunteer!  This young man possessed such a positive attitude and kind spirit.  Not only had be become paralyzed in a car accident, he had lost his brother in that same accident. 

In the early 90s I had a student who had memorized every single word to EVERY Star Wars movie. He even wore a Star Wars tie in his senior picture!  He was a gifted writer and had a huge heart.  Today on Facebook, I found out that he wrote a screenplay called The Recall and that Wesley Snipes will portray one of the characters.  I am so thrilled for him and not a bit surprised either!  

Four years ago I had a student in my drama class who drove me half out of my mind.  Although, I liked him and we had a good relationship, he liked to leave class without permission which resulted in me writing my one and only referral that year.  As the year progressed, we came to an understanding, and I never had another issue with him.  In fact, as I got to know him, I realized he was extremely bright and encouraged him to sign up for Honors English the following year.  He was shocked and a bit hesitant.  However, he finally agreed, and I spoke with the counselor to make sure he would be in my class.  We had a great year together! At the end of the year, he handed me the sweetest note which is still on my bulletin board and will remain there until I retire.  In high school, he got into a bit of trouble. I have stayed in touch with him, encouraging him and telling him I believe in him-because I do.  Happily, he seems to be on a good path right now.

I don't think students could possibly know how much we love and care about them.  We are delighted in their successes and saddened by their struggles.  We don't forget about them when they walk out the classroom door in June.  We are thrilled to run into them years later. We hope that they remember their time in our classrooms fondly.  We hope that some part of us will always be in their hearts because they are always in ours.

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