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When I was in elementary school, I struggled almost daily with school.
As the year went on, I spent more recesses indoors trying to catch up on
my work and getting extra help. I ended up spending a summer in summer
school and by the end of sixth grade, I believed I was stupid. Just when
I felt like I would never do well in school and that I would be lucky
to graduate, one teacher changed my entire life.
While all my friends were at summer camp enjoying their time off school, I was with a teacher trying to get caught up and ready for seventh grade. I was looking forward to going to junior high with my friends, and then my parents dropped a bomb on me. They informed me that I wouldn’t be going to school with my friends — I was going to a different school with smaller class sizes. I felt like I was being punished. Wasn’t summer school punishment enough? It was really hard for me to go to a new school.
I went into school with no confidence. I didn’t believe I could do anything and struggled to believe I would be able to do anything with my future.
When September came, I began at a new school where I had to make new friends, meet new teachers, and become familiar with a new environment. I went into school with no confidence. I didn’t believe I could do anything and struggled to believe I would be able to do anything with my future. Each morning, I left the house in tears. I either had a fight with my mom about how hard school was for me, or I felt down on myself for not being able to achieve the grades I wanted so badly to achieve. I spent a lot of time during the first month of school in the principal’s office as she tried to calm me down.
As I slowly began settling in, I started to open my eyes to what the school had to offer. There is one teacher in particular who I’ve never forgotten. She changed my life. Ms. Gerrard was my seventh grade math teacher. When she taught, it didn’t seem so difficult to understand. Day in and day out, she spent time asking questions as she taught her lessons. When she wrote out math equations on the chalkboard with her chalk in her silver chalk holder, she made me feel as though I had all the time in the world to figure out the answer, or to learn the math skill she was teaching. Each day, as she gave me the time and attention I needed to grow, I began to feel like maybe I was wrong in what I thought about myself. Maybe I wasn’t stupid, but rather I didn’t have the right teachers. As the year went on, my grades began to improve in math. As my math skills improved and my confidence grew, I began to do well in my other classes as well. By the end of eighth grade, I was happier in school than I had ever been. I finally began to feel like I had found my place, like I finally had my two feet planted on the ground exactly where they were meant to be.
I never forgot how Ms. Gerrard made me feel. I never forgot that she made me believe in myself, and that was a gift I had never even dreamed was possible.
Leaving that school, just like
starting at that school, was hard. I wanted to stay in the place that
gave me my confidence, but I knew that it was time for me to take the
confidence and the skills I had learned while I was there and use them
where I went next. And so I did. I went on to maintain good grades in
math from that year on. Ms. Gerrard had helped me see math problems
differently, in a way that made sense to me. When I received a 90 in
Calculus when I was in college, I thought of her fondly.
As I continued through my schooling, I decided to go down a path in education. I never forgot how Ms. Gerrard made me feel. I never forgot that she made me believe in myself, and that was a gift I had never even dreamed was possible. I became an elementary school teacher so I could do for other children what she had done for me. I hope I make an impact on my students' lives in the way she did for me. To Ms. Gerrard, thank you. Your influence remains with me today, and I’m eternally grateful.
This post is part of a series honoring beloved teachers who make a difference with their kindness, love, and wisdom each day. Thank you to all of our educators from all of us at CircleAround.com. To read other stories in this series, please click here.