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Monday, April 18, 2016

Dear Teacher (#1)

In 9th grade I was miserable. I hated school. I didn't have any hopes that high school would be better than middle school and it wasn't.

It wasn't the academics I hated. My classes were perpetually too easy.

Most of the time my teachers left me alone. I would finish the class work early, complete the homework, and read a book or write notes to friends until the bell rang.

But I did have a teacher who reached out to me, who made me feel exceptional, who recognized I could do be more, do more, learn more.

I would love to say one special teacher made all the difference.

That wasn't quite true. My need to escape was too big for a teacher to overcome.

The challenge issued by @kara_welty in her delightful blog post "The Power of Relationships" (you can find it at was to write about a teacher who impacted you and then try to contact that individual.

I told her I would take on that challenge this week. First I made a list of teachers. I looked each of them up. I cam up empty. This week, I want to try and write about each of them. If you know one of the teachers I write about this week, please give them the link to my blog.

I want to start with Mrs. Robinson

Dear Mrs. Robinson,

I don't know if you remember me, but I was in your ninth grade English class in 1992. I always loved your energy.

I recall how happy you always seemed, not just to be teaching, but to be you. That made you unique in my world and a valuable role model.

It didn't bother you that some kids thought your hair and make-up were silly. I thought you were fabulous. Your 10 inch blond beehive and black eye liner were your signature and you unapologetically owned your look. A few times, you joked about keeping Aqua hairspray in business.

But most of all, I remember how much you wanted all of us to succeed. You recognized my desire to escape the limited academic landscape of high school.

I asked you for a letter of recommendation to a college summer program. You agreed.

Of course, you were sometimes a bit of an organizational disaster and you almost forgot my letter.

When I reminded you, you dropped everything and took me with you to the post office after school to make sure my letter was post marked on time.

It meant a lot to me that you were willing to make sure I got that letter.

It meant a lot to me that you were always so comfortable in your own skin.

I don't remember much about your class. A moment here and there, like when we watched Romeo and Juliet and you failed to fast forward through the naked scene (we thought that was awesome!).

As the old adage goes, it wasn't what you taught me, but how you made me feel, about you and about myself.

Maybe that has something to do with why I have been a 9th grade English teacher for most of my career. I think it might. And that has been an amazingly good thing.

I just want to say, as we used to do "Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson."

                                                                                                             Thank you,
                                                                                                                 Dr. Riina Hirsch

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