To a Past Ally

Mr. Ponicsan,

I’ve been asked, who was a teacher that made a positive impact on your life? While most people have to think for a moment or two, there isn’t a hesitation anymore. It used to be a singular answer to this question—Ms. Hall. But now, as I have thought more on this question and its connection to the project I am working on, I remember someone else; I remember you. I think that I neglected to think of you as an ally for so long because you became involved in my life during my last year in high school. I was emotionally checked out, but as I think back on it now, you were one of the kindest teachers I have ever had the pleasure of meeting in my life.

You were a school favorite for the obvious reason—kids liked your humor and thought you were the cool kid. What most kids didn’t come to realize is there was so much more to who you were and what you were there to give to each one of your students if they needed it. I was one of those kids. This is why I thought of you when asked this question; you were there for me, an angry, sad, hurting high school senior that felt no one was there for me—that no one understood. I was wrong.

The reason you left such a lasting impression was because of your ability to connect with me at a personal level. We all know how easy it is for teenagers to scoff and brush adults off because ‘they couldn’t possibly understand.’ I couldn’t use that argument against you; you had been where I was, in an even worse situation. You understood how I could be so mad at my dad or at the world in general. You understood why I was always defensive. You could see beyond all of that and see that I was just a hurt, sad little girl. Thank you for listening to me and remaining the voice of a sane and removed adult. You made me listen. You made me look out and understand I wasn’t always going to be stuck in that school. I may not have realized it at the time, but you did cause a change in me.

I’ve already written about this in a previous blog post of mine, but I’ll talk about it again. There was a day, mid-April that we talked. I came into your class, fighting back tears, explaining that I was going to miss class for personal reasons. I can’t remember if I ever told you exactly what happened, but I was moving out of my dad’s house after we had one of the worst fights in our history. It was soon after that day, you sat me down on the benches under the main stairwell of the school and talked to me—truly talked. There was no humor in your voice, only concern. We talked about what happened between my dad and you told me about your own father. I realized how similar we were in that moment, regardless of how many years separated us. I hadn’t thought of the possibility of an adult that understood where I was coming from until that conversation we had. I told you about all of the writing I had done and I remember you told me to burn it.

It’s not surprising that I followed your advise.

I could go on for pages, for thousands of words, trying to explain what an impact you made on my life, trying to explain how much you changed me and saved me from myself, but what I have written here is enough. Know how much I  appreciated you then and now. I aspire to be a teacher like you—to have the outreach on one of my students like you did to me.

You truly saved me and I owe you the world for that.

Thank you,

Alex

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