I was a shy kid. I still am really. I’d rather sit in a quiet corner of a restaurant with 3 or 4 people I know than go to a huge party with hundreds of people – those make me hyperventilate. I’m pretty shy at heart. When I started preschool at B.Y.U. at the age of 3 it was a super hard for me to make eye contact with my teachers, even though they were perfectly lovely.
By Kindergarten I was fairly comfortable with a handful of close friends at my side, 20 of which remained with me all the way through the 7th grade. Still, school was tricky. I’m one of 8 kids and I got lost in the mix a lot, especially when it came to schoolwork. My parents were just busy, period. They both worked full-time jobs while managing a houseful of kids, and I never had help with homework.
My parents signed me up for Spanish immersion in the 1st grade and a lot of the kids had been with me in Kindergarten, so at the very least I had kids who made eye contact with me.
What I didn’t know until a handful of years ago actually, is that I started reading in Spanish just fine but it took until 3rd grade for me to read fluently in English. In fact Spanish was a far more comfortable language for me to speak, period. It felt a lot more natural to me, which makes sense to me now as an adult; I was in a classroom with my peers speaking nothing but Spanish all-day every day for 9 months out of the year 1st through 6th grade.
But I still needed a little TLC at school. At the age of 9 she came to me in the form of an angel named Mrs. Hansen. Mrs. Hansen, a young college graduate fluent in Spanish led my class on a magical journey that year. She sat with her arm around me when I had difficulty with something, whispering encouragement in my ear. A handful of times I arrived at school in tears; without fail Mrs. Hansen scuttled me into the hall with some tissues and a hug and a worried look in her eye, poised to listen and offer help.
She nurtured me, she believed in me, held me up, and completely changed my life.
I corresponded with Mrs. Hansen for years. YEARS. I sent her a wedding announcement when Viktor and I were married and of course she sent a lovely gift with a note that made me cry. When I ordered invitations for college graduation she was at the top of my list because when I struggled through college, holding on by the skin of my teeth it was Mrs. Hansen’s voice I heard in my ear telling me I could do it. She loved me, she believed in me, She knew I could succeed. She loved me, and never wasted an opportunity to tell me so.
My own children have been lucky enough to have a ‘Mrs. Hansen’ in their lives. Precocious has already had two, Mrs. H and Mrs. P, both of whom made magic during their short tenures with her.
Charming was wrapped in love all through Kindergarten with Mrs. M, knowing every effort would be met with a cheer.
Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to all the educators out there putting your hearts and budgets, and free time on the line for the children you teach. Teachers make a difference in kids lives.