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An Open Letter to Students Who Never Went Back to Thank a Teacher

Dear student of any age:

We are alike. I have had teachers who have made a positive impact on me whom I just never got around to going back to thank, and for that, I have regrets.

One such teacher I never got a chance to “go back” to see is Mrs. Chrissy Barbusca, my high school English and journalism teacher. My freshmen year in college she moved to Romania with her husband, and they have lived and taught internationally for more than a decade.

In writing this blog I actually decided to look her up. Thankfully the Internet and her unique last name made her easy to find. I pray that we will grow into friends and that I will continue to learn from her.

Now while it is far better to let a person know his or her positive impact as early and as often as possible, I am here to assure you that if you don’t get around to it, it’s OK. Here’s how I know.

Recently Randy, a colleague, and I were enjoying breakfast one morning at an educators’ conference. Randy - a 34-year teaching veteran - was telling me about his hometown and I asked him about whether or not he had Mrs. Pearcey as a math teacher. His eyes lit up.

“I loved her,” Randy said. “I always said I was going to go back to tell her how much she meant to me.” 

Mrs. Pearcey was my grandmother. In 1964, she earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics, and then a master’s degree in mathematics a few years later. Bravely, she volunteered to be one of the first two classroom teachers to integrate Sarasota High School in Florida. She would serve 40 years as a classroom teacher before retiring. Her passion for teaching was contagious. She was an inspiration to me when I became a teacher.

My grandmother died March 14, 2014. Randy never got a chance to go back and thank her.

To add another layer to the story, I had lunch with Randy immediately before leaving town to visit my grandmother during her final days. Randy was a great listener and showed tremendous empathy as we talked about how hard it is to say goodbye to a loved one.

“If I would have known you were talking about Mrs. Pearcey, I would have gone with you,” said Randy. “I never got a chance to tell her.”

But Randy was letting her know how important she was to him because he was telling ME.

For the rest of the evening (which also happened to be my birthday), he recounted anything and everything he could remember about her class, and my grandmother as a teacher and person. It was the best birthday present anyone could have given to me.  

Most of us won’t coincidentally run into the granddaughters of our favorite teachers, so there may still be some regret if you don’t get back to thank your favorite teacher.

Sometimes we may be too late. However, if you have not said the words, "thank you," you can thank them by sharing the pieces they left you, with others.

Sincerely,

A Student Who Hasn't Thanked Enough Teachers

 

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