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A letter from a teacher

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A few years ago, as I was packing up my childhood bedroom and moving into my own home, I came across an envelope tied with a cornflower blue ribbon. My name and address were on the front in large cursive letters, right next to a .29 cent stamp covered in zinnias. I cocked my head and looked it over, not remembering what could have been so important that I gave the letter its own ribbon. As I slid the ribbon off, I was taken back ten years, to the day I sat in that same bedroom, probably on that same bed, and anxiously opened the letter.

If they're lucky, every person will encounter at least one teacher who will somehow impact their life in a huge way. Whether it's by inspiring them, mentoring them, or disciplining them, they make some sort of difference or influence a change.

For me, my junior high teacher Ms. Crowe has always been one of my favorites. She was the first to push me, the first to inspire me, and the first to show me that learning doesn't just come from a text book.

The letter I found tied with the cornflower blue ribbon was a letter I had received from Ms. Crowe after my eighth grade graduation. I remember the day it came in the mail--I was at home and my grandma called to let me know a letter came to their house for me. She said the return address was Crowe, and I almost jumped out of my seat. I had given Ms. Crowe a letter after graduation, and she had taken the time to reply. I was so anxious to get that letter and see what she had written to me that I immediately had my mom drive me to my grandma's.

"Dear Lilly," the letter began, "Your smile and sweetness will certainly be missed! When I look at your picture, it is just YOU, glowing face and smile. You're a great young woman! I have personally asked a good friend at the high school you will be attending to keep an eye out for you! I told her--this is a winning young lady here--you don't find many like her--she has it all--drive, determination, brains, and a terrific outlook on life! I have to tell you, she's pretty excited too!"

I remember sitting in every class that fall, thinking, "I wonder if this is the teacher who is supposed to look out for me." Now I can laugh at myself, but at the time I really felt like I had some sort of protector or guardian angel looking after me. It made me feel like every teacher could be that one who thought I was "something special" and excited to have me in their class. It made me strive to work hard to impress each of them so that they wouldn't be disappointed.

"You have powerful goals for your life, Lilly, don't lose them along the way. All too often life shows us this side that appears easy and fun. When we tire it looks great. Yet, unmet goals sadden us in the end."

The words really struck me. At the time I had just graduated college, started my career, and bought my first house. But looking back, her words had so much more meaning than they did when I was 13. I thought back to everything the junior high version of myself had wanted to accomplish--I had wanted to be on "Teen Jeopardy," attend an Ivy league school, and become a rain forest botanist and find a cure for cancer, just like Sean Connery in "Medicine Man." Go ahead and laugh! I know I do when I look back on it. But at that point in my life, I didn't think I'd have unmet goals. I was looking at the world with such an innocent view that I thought I could accomplish everything I wanted. I think I lost that determination after my semester in college, or maybe even my first AP class in high school, but in my 13-year-old mind, I could have ruled the world. If only I could have kept that determination throughout the rest of my life.

As I finished reading the letter, I noticed that she signed it, "With love and admiration," and I remember being 13 and reading it and thinking, "Wow. SHE admires ME!"

I don't think Ms. Crowe will ever know the impact she or her letter had on me. I remember after I first received it, I read it so many times I almost had it memorized. To know that she enjoyed teaching me as much as I enjoyed learning from her, to know that she had great hopes for me like I had for myself, and to know that she admired me and just thought I was a good kid, gave me a confidence that I can't explain.

After reading the letter, I sat for a minute, thinking back to Ms. Crowe and her letter. Then I took the cornflower blue ribbon and tied it back around the envelope, placing it back where I found it, knowing in a few years I would come and read it again.
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