The Ability of Teachers to Touch Our Lives


	Jean Thompson stood in front of her fifth-grade class on the very first
	day of school in the fall and told the children a lie.  Like most
	teachers, she looked at her pupils and said that she loved them all the
	same, that she would treat them all alike.  And that was impossible
	because there in front of her, slumped in his seat on the third row, was
	a little black boy named Teddy Stoddard.  Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy
	the year before and noticed he didn't play well with the other children,
	that his clothes were unkempt and that he constantly needed a bath.  And 
	Teddy was unpleasant.  It got to the point during the first few months that
	she would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red
	pen, making bold X's and then marking the F at the top of the paper
	biggest of all.  Because Teddy was a sullen little boy, no one else
	seemed to enjoy him, either. 

	At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each
	child's records and put Teddy's off until last.  When she opened his file,
	she was in for a surprise.  His first-grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is a
	bright, inquisitive child with a ready laugh.  He does his work neatly and
	has good manners...he is a joy to be around." His second-grade teacher
	wrote, "Teddy is an excellent student well-liked by his classmates, but he
	is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must
	be a struggle."  His third-grade teacher wrote, "Teddy continues to work
	hard but his mother's death has been hard on him.  He tries to do his best
	but his father doesn't show much interest and his home life will soon affect 
	him if some steps aren't taken."  Teddy's fourth-grade teacher wrote, "Teddy 
	is withdrawn and doesn't show much interest in school.  He doesn't have 
	many friends and sometimes sleeps in class.  He is tardy and could become a 
	problem."

	By now Mrs. Thompson realized the problem but Christmas was coming
	fast.  It was all she could do, with the school play and all, until the
	day before the holidays began and she was suddenly forced to focus on
	Teddy Stoddard.  Her children brought her presents, all in beautiful
	ribbon and bright paper, except for Teddy's, which was clumsily wrapped
	in the heavy, brown paper of a scissored grocery bag.  Mrs.Thompson took
	pains to open it in the middle of the other presents.  Some of the
	children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some
	of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of
	cologne.  She stifled the children's laughter when she exclaimed how
	pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume
	behind the other wrist.  Teddy Stoddard stayed behind just long enough to 
	say, "Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my mom used to."  After 
	the children left she cried for at least an hour.  On that very day, she 
	quit teaching reading, and writing, and speaking.  Instead, she began to 
	teach children.

	Jean Thompson paid particular attention to one they all called "Teddy."
	As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive.  The more she
	encouraged him, the faster he responded.  On days there would be an
	important test, Mrs. Thompson would remember that cologne.  By the end
	of the year he had become one of the smartest children in the class
	and...well, he had also become the "pet" of the teacher who had once
	vowed to love all of her children exactly the same.
	
	A year later she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her
	that of all the teachers he'd had in elementary school, she was his
	favorite.  Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He
	then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she
	was still his favorite teacher of all time.  Four years after that, she
	got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times,
	he'd stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would graduate from
	college with the highest of honors.  He assured Mrs.Thompson she was
	still his favorite teacher. Then four more years passed and yet another
	letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor's
	degree, he decided to go a little further.  The letter explained that
	she was still his favorite teacher but that now his name was a little
	longer.  The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.
	
	The story doesn't end there.  You see, there was yet another letter that
	Spring.  Teddy said he'd met this girl and was to be married.  He
	explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was
	wondering...well, if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the pew usually
	reserved for the mother of the groom.  And guess what, she wore that
	bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing.  And I bet on that
	special day, Jean Thompson smelled just like... well, just like the way
	Teddy remembered his mother smelling on their last Christmas together.
	





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