I believe in treating people as the person that they can become. Mr. Curtis, my 5th grade teacher taught me much about life at a time when Saturday morning cartoons and sneaking forbidden candy bars into my possession were the highlight of my week. I don’t even remember his first name, but I can tell you that Mr. Curtis is one of few teachers who believed in my ability to succeed before I could have ever imagined it. In my city, the dropout rate still hovers at over 60%.
As 10 and 11 year olds, my classmates and I were given weekly assignment packets every Monday and were expected to complete them by Friday. For those of us who were motivated to complete our work by Wednesday morning, there were computer games to be played and art activities to be had. For those of us who were on our way to teacher hood by age 12, we could also volunteer to assist Mr. Curtis with lessons or tutor fellow students. We studied poetry, discussed movies, and dialogued about our future pursuits in middle school. He gave us expectations not unlike he must have had for his own children or peers, at least that’s how he made us feel. My friends and I were always so worried about meeting assignment deadlines because of the disappointing look that we might face. No one wanted to disappoint Mr. Curtis, because doing that, as he taught us, meant that we were really disappointing ourselves. He cared about us and made us feel like we could all do something of value.
I think I forgot about Mr. Curtis during my harder years in high school, but once I started college, I began, as most college students do, to get distracted over way too many things and perfect the art of procrastination. In the most troubled times, when I thought I was about to give up and pitch my text books out the window, I remembered the lessons learned from Mr. Curtis, sat down, and began to plan how I would finish the tasks assigned by my professors. I stood fast to the hope that I could do it. After all, if my 5th grade teacher thought I could manage my time, surly I could at age 18.
I have now completed grad school and am looking forward to my admittance to a PhD program. I credit all of my success to people who, like my teacher, believe in treating others as if they had already crossed the finish line. I try to practice what he taught me and inspire others to continue reaching for thier goals, because as Mr. Curtis taught me, sometimes we just someone to remind us of what we can be.
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