Most of us, if we think long enough, can recall teachers who, even at a very young age, made an impact in our lives. I unfortunately remember a few statements made by teachers throughout my school career that were damaging. But also, very fortunately, I remember the words and actions from others who built up and encouraged and, in a positive way, helped set the trajectory of my life.

My daughter begins the third grade this year. But it is her second grade teacher that I want to praise. Throughout her second grade year I watched on numerous occasions as my daughter interacted with her second grade teacher, Mrs. Montgomery. I watched on the very first day of orientation when Mrs. Montgomery spoke words of hope and truth into my daughter’s life. Words as simple as “I can see that we are going to have a wonderful year together.” I watched as my daughter began to show a special affinity toward the arts that Mrs. Montgomery did not discourage her but prodded her to pour herself more fully into her giftedness. I listened as my daughter struggled in other subjects while Mrs. Montgomery encouraged her to work harder and walked alongside of her to give her confidence.

This summer my daughter and every other member of Mrs. Montgomery’s second grade class received a letter in the mail. The following is the one that Tabitha received.

August 8, 2007

Dear Tabs,

Summer is going fast. I have had a great time. I went to Florida for a week of vacation, taught Bible School, went to camp and worked in my garden. I have read over ten books. Some of the books were about being a better teacher and some were just fiction books.

I worked at Strausser every day last week. I saw your name on the picnic table. It made me think of what a great class we had last year. I really miss you. Tabs, you were an important part of the team.

Have you been reading and making a quick journal entry about the book? Remember you don’t have to write huge paragraphs. Just tell me the main idea. If you bring in your journal at Open House, I have a surprise waiting for you.

You are going to love third grade. It is more exciting than last year. In third grade you start to learn more science and social studies. The books you read will be full of interesting facts. You are ready!

Your teacher next year has lots to teach you. Every teacher you ever have will help you in a different way. Learn all you can from each one.

I know you will do well in third grade, Tabitha. Do your best on every assignment. Pay attention and work together with your team.

Remember that I will always be proud to have been your second grade teacher. No matter how old you get, I will be thinking about you and following news of you! Do great things!

Mrs. M.

After Tabitha met her new third grade teacher and toured her new classroom at Open House, the very next thing she wanted to do was visit Mrs. Montgomery. We made our way to the second grade hall and there Mrs. Montgomery reviewed Tabitha’s journal, looked directly into her eyes and said, “Tabs, you are going to have a wonderful year. Your third grade teacher is going to teach you even more than I taught you. I am very proud of you.” And she hugged my daughter before we walked away.

Small things. Spoken words of encouragement. A Hug. A brief letter. But who knows how these things “small things” might change the life of a child?

So, to all of you teachers who love and believe in children. To all of you who make the time to do the extra things. To all of you who take your position with the seriousness it deserves. And especially to Mrs. Montgomery. Thank-you. You are worthy of praise.