THIS I BELIEVE
I believe in saying THANK YOU to teachers. Thirty years ago, I thought my high school math teacher, Mrs. Baldwin, was the meanest old woman I’d ever met, plus she gave too much homework. This past March, however, something inside started nagging me to thank her for the tough push she had given my immature 16-year-old self. So, I googled her address and wrote her this letter:
Dear Mrs. Baldwin,
This is a long-overdue thank you for being such a wonderful algebra teacher and mentor. I have often bragged about you to others and wanted you to know how much your guidance and encouragement meant to a young student. Although I always liked math in school, you were the first person who encouraged me to pursue engineering. You also took the time to steer me toward N.C. State University and put me on the path to a challenging and thoroughly interesting career.
Thanks to your insight, I did indeed receive a civil engineering degree, and later an MBA from The College of William and Mary. Upon graduation, I took a position at Newport News Shipbuilding, now Northrop Grumman, and have spent nearly twenty-five years in the defense industry. It has been my privilege to work on the design and construction of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines, and to apply computer-aided design, robotics, and virtual reality technologies.
Your influence continues to be felt. Moving into management positions, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many young people, encouraging them to stretch their educational goals and to pursue careers in technology fields. Oftentimes I tell them about you and how I wouldn’t have been an engineer without your guidance.
So, once again, THANK YOU for being a great teacher!
Rose High School Class of 1978
Nothing fancy. Didn’t mention the “mean old woman” part. Truly, I wasn’t even sure if she’d remember me.
But, turns out she did remember me, and sent a gracious handwritten reply in the neat controlled script I remembered so well from her chalkboard assignments. She told me about her life in a pleasant retirement community, playing bridge, working the daily crossword puzzles in the local paper to keep her mind sharp, tackling jigsaw puzzles on which her neighbors liked to check progress. She mentioned only two things she missed as she grew older – being able to ride out to see the spring flowers and the beautiful organ music at Jarvis Memorial Methodist Church.
This week my Mom called. She said some friends had phoned her to say they had attended Mrs. Baldwin’s funeral. She’d died peacefully at the age of 94. And, the pastor had read my letter at her funeral. I’m so glad that I sent it, and I guess she must have saved it. Thanks again, Mrs. Baldwin.
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