Thanking teachers that matter

“You will never know how much your letter meant to me. I taught for 50 years and yours is the first “thank you” letter I have ever gotten from a student.  Sometimes I wonder what I did with my life.  I will read and reread your letter until the day I die.”

The quote from this story moved me deeply the first time I read it and continues to touch my heart whenever I think about it.  The story is titled, The Teacher Story:The Life-changing Gift of Appreciation, and comes from the book The Simple Truths of Appreciation: How each of us can choose to make a difference by Barbara Glanz.  Click on the image of the banner below to see this inspirational story from the book come alive.

The story is an example of how this inspirational speaker, Barbara, encourages her audiences to do one act of appreciation to one person in the next 72 hours.  As the story goes one gentleman committed to thanking his eight grade literature teacher because she was everyone’s favorite teacher. Her response was the quote above sharing how his letter meant so much to her, as she was now old and all alone questioning her purpose in life.  The gentleman explained how she was the one teacher everyone talked about at every reunion, but no one had ever told her that until she received that letter.

This story is relevant to my heart again because this weekend I’ll be gathering with my classmates from the class of 1991 of Rush City High School to celebrate our 20th reunion.  As part of our weekend reunion celebration, we wanted to invite those teachers that matter to us  to one of the events.  As I reflect on this story the power of thanking someone for a life-long career of teaching, I decided this was my chance to do the same.

Quite a few years ago when I first heard this story, I wrote letters to the three most influential teachers in my life: my high school English teacher, Doreen Kaarlson; my college professor, Teresa Lyons, who taught my favorite class of public speaking; and my graduate school adviser and professor, Dr. Diane Stoy.

Now I’m taking the opportunity to thank other teachers in my life that matter.  All of the teachers that I’ve had at Rush City were good and taught me countless skills and knowledge beyond what I can fathom.  Since it’s my 20th reunion, I decided to write thank you notes to “the 20 teachers  that matter” that I had at Rush City in both elementary school and high school.

It was such a joy thinking of and thanking these people in my life that taught me life skills and lessons that make me who I am today.  Some I thanked for teaching me a specific skill, like how to bring energy and passion to all I do (Mr. Schlagel) or how to maintain a smile as I face challenges (Mrs. Bengston).  Others I thanked for fond memories like my 6th grade teacher Rick Kosloski for teaching me both inside/outside of the classroom and when I received an unforgettable “wake up call” during Mr. Bungert’s chemistry class in high school.  I thanked Mr. Mollberg for being my favorite coach and Mrs. Althoff for selecting me to be one her special teacher helpers in first grade.  One note of particular importance brought a range of emotions for me as I sent it to the wife of one of my teachers who just recently passed away.

While writing the letters and before mailing them, I said prayers of appreciation over each one of them.  With each step my actions were intentional.  It was important to me that each one of these individuals knew the impact they made and how grateful I am for the difference they made in my life.

I’m not certain that any one of these letters will be life-changing to the teachers I wrote to.  Yet it might be the only one they receive from a student.  Rest-assured I’ll know in my heart as we talk about them at the reunion  and hopefully see some of them again that they will have been told, at least from one student, how their lives matter.

FYI: Stay tuned as I share with you later this year how I plan to thank my most influential elementary school teacher and also Return IT Backward to the Rush City school system.

Now is your chance.  Use the comments below to thank a teacher that matters in your life (past or present) and then share it with them.

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