Dear Mrs. Pogado* (yes, you will always be Mrs. Pogado to me),
I’ve been meaning to reach out to you for so long. My year in your English class was an entire adult lifetime ago. Time slips away fast and I’ve not done everything I meant to do.
I also taught school for years. Trust me when I say that I know how easy it is to blur the line from one kid to the next. I hope you won’t feel bad that you don’t remember me particularly. I’m sure I was one of many students you encouraged along the way.
When I started the ninth grade I believe there were four class phases. I was on the second one from the bottom. There aren’t any feelings I remember about where I was placed. I assumed that’s where I was meant to be.
You didn’t see it that way.
We weren’t far into the first six weeks of school when you pushed me to move up a level. On that subject I do remember feelings. Strong ones. There was a bit of fear, disbelief…pride.
After some jostling of my schedule, I landed in an upper phase. There was some struggle to keep pace. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do the work. I think I’d grown lazy. School had been easy up until then.
But I wanted to make you proud. I wanted you not to be wrong about me. I wanted to belong there.
So I did the work.
I learned some things about myself that year. I found out that being challenged is a good thing. My brain had been coated in rust from years of being good enough. It also occurred to me that I didn’t have to accept what I was given. I can be an obstinate, headstrong girl (nod to Miss Austen) if that’s what it takes. I don’t have to accept that things are meant to be.
I also realized that I am intelligent. Mrs. Vogado, you were the first teacher to make me feel value for my brain. Not that I could draw well, not that I can sing, not that I’m a nice person or that I am tall enough to reach things off a high shelf. No. You made me feel smart. You made me proud of what I can know.
I’ve never let that go.
And as if that wasn’t enough, I also fell in love. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is still my favorite book. I read it again and again year after year (GREAT EXPECTATIONS? Eh. Not so much, though I still get chills thinking about Miss Haversham).
Reading and writing are such a part of me now. I can’t go a day without a book under my nose. Plus, I’m currently in revisions on my third novel (Young Adult, of course). Part of that is because of you (another part belongs to my mom because she bought me a boxed set of Judy Blume books when I was a kid).
So, for me and all those other students that participated in your class, thank you. You are the teacher we remember. Fondly.
Still Fondly & Hoping You Won’t Grade My Grammar,
*Names were changed to protect the innocent.