ONE "THANK YOU" CAN MAKE LIFE WORTH LIVING.
In life, nothing stays the same. I won’t elaborate on my various teaching experiences or concentrate on the nasty attitudes around me or focus on the misguided missions of too-many teachers. Neither will I waste valuable time describing the poor working conditions in today's classrooms or the lack of leadership among most educators--because, in the final analysis, the only thing that ever truly mattered to me….were the students.
Wherever I taught, it was always about the children. I could write another book about the countless students in my classrooms and how each student touched my heart. It will always be my prayer that I changed at least one life... for the better.
None of us can ever know what children have been forced to see, to do, or to experience. Growing up, I yearned for a role model---someone to inspire me—someone to help me reach higher than myself. My fourth grade teacher was indeed my role model when I was 9 years old and, because of her,I become the first woman to travel the length of The Great Wall of China.
Growing up, I acted as my own cheerleader, reading book after book and encouraging myself to learn more. Even into my sixties, I returned to college to earn my Masters. I felt the need to teach, to be a role model for children with special needs; to reach-out to children--like me-- who were emotional disabled.
If you ask which student I remember most from my five years of teaching at Jenkins Center, Pine Bluff, Arkansas-- I would easily say--- Anthony.
The very first day I met Anthony, I was overwhelmed with his quietly-shy demeanor. He was four years old, unable to talk, and he demonstrated absolutely no response when I spoke his name. Anthony's records indicated he'd shown very- little progress since becoming a student at Jenkins, two years earlier.
Anthony was a beautiful little boy--- almost angelic-looking---with big brown eyes, curly long hair worn in braids, and his soft yet-silent presence seemed to invite respect.
As soon as I entered the classroom, Anthony and I bonded like best friends and, together, we found his voice. Within months, Anthony could respond to his name, was able to talk, and he was motivated to learn song lyrics faster than anyone in the room. It wasn’t long before Anthony led the class in singing all the songs. He learned so fast he was able to move to a regular school. I made it a point to visit Anthony in his new classroom where he proudly demonstrated his new computer skills. It took several years before Anthony and I crossed paths, again.
One day, at noontime, parked under a big shade tree in the Post Office Parking Lot, I was listening to the radio and eating my lunch...when someone knocked on my car window. Turning around, I was thrilled to see Anthony. I rolled down the window and Anthony said, “Hi Ms. Miller! Can you get out of the car please...so I can hug you?
In a flash--- I was out of that car, so happy to get a big hug from my star student! Anthony was excited because he had passed all his tests and was now, officially, moving to the next grade level. Now, Anthony was getting to share his good news with me!
My marvelous student had grown bigger and taller and smarter, with every new day. Anthony’s mother stepped out of her car, beaming with pride, also happy to share Anthony’s good news. She praised Anthony's progress and said "Ms. Miller, Anthony could never have accomplished any of this without you." Before leaving, Anthony grabbed my hand and said “Ms. Miller, you are still my favorite teacher and I’ll always love you best!”
I held back my happy tears until I’d waved a final good-bye and was headed back to my classroom. It only takes one "Thank You" and one story with a Happy Ending...to make my life worth living. And, it only took one "Anthony" to let me know... I was in the right place at the right time....to make a difference.
Anthony is one of my most- precious memories. I’ll carry him in my heart---forever.