"Though she be but little, she is fierce!"
My friend...I'm pretty sure Shakespeare had you in mind when he penned those words. In fact, the first time I saw you I remember thinking, "It's no wonder she teaches first grade...if she taught anything higher, the kids would be taller than the teacher!" Not too long after I thought it, you said something very similar..."I can't teach higher than second grade...the kids can't be taller than the teacher." You laughed...I laughed...Nancy laughed...and in that moment I knew that I had found my teaching family. With the two of you in my corner, I knew there was NOTHING I couldn't accomplish. You were my foundation...my starting place...my rocks...my cheerleaders...my comforting shoulders...and the bringers of tissues when the dam broke and the tears flowed. We were a team. You were my team.
"Don't follow that basal series," you said. "It's not good enough. You are better than that." And so I didn't. I didn't that first year...and I haven't followed one since. I followed you and Barbara and Nancy. You taught me to teach my kids what they needed to learn...the use the resources I had to teach the standards on the list...to think for myself and not get bogged down with what the script told me to do. "That script doesn't know your kids...it doesn't know what they need. Only YOU know what they need. Use that script to get started, and then run with it. Trust your gut." And so I did...and I still do. I did whatever you told me to do. I did what you did..at least...I TRIED to do what you did. Even though I was nowhere close to where you were, my kids learned. And you said, "You are a great teacher." And I said, "I'm just doing what you told me to do...it's YOU that is the great teacher."
And off we went. Whether I was right next door, across the hall, or in another building altogether...you were in my corner. You were my mentor. After a smile and a hug you'd ask, "How are you?" And the look on your face told me I couldn't lie. You would never be satisfied, "I'm good." The sparkle in your eyes always reassured me, and I knew I could tell you that I was scared...hopeful...terrified...stressed...angry...fantastic...I could tell the truth. My truth. And no matter what I said, I knew you would be there for me. Supporting me.
You were always there for me no matter what was going on in your own world. No matter how you felt mentally or physically...your heart was always open. You knew when to back away and take care of yourself and when to open up and let others help you. You knew when to ask for help and when to offer it whether I wanted it or not. You just knew.
And so I thank you. Thank you for supporting me and others like me. Thank you for teaching me how to listen to my teaching gut. Thank you for showing me that it's ok to go against the grain. That it's ok to fight for what a kid needs. That it's ok to say, "I just don't know what to do next."
Thank you for believing in me. For pushing me. For showing me that there's always another way. For trying to teach me to balance (I know...I know...I've got a lot to learn on this one.)
Thank you for showing me how to fight.
Thank you for being my mentor.
Thank you for being my friend.
You are loved. And will be deeply missed.