Seeing Ourselves 
Through Teachers’ Eyes

Thanksgiving is a time of reflection, reminding me of everything that is near and dear.

A recent interview with Legend High School’s Cari Corley has given me some new thoughts as we head into the season of gratitude. And that is a big “thank you” to the teachers who saw something in me that I did not see myself.

I had many wonderful teachers during my school years. A fourth grade nun, a seventh-grade science teacher. My parents – an elementary school librarian, who always encouraged reading, and a college journalism professor – also come to mind. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am now if my Dad hadn’t convinced me to take the beginning writing course offered by the University of Arizona Journalism Department.

But I especially remember one comment from a middle school teacher. On a written story that she had graded, she wrote “You will surely be a writer one day.”

When I read the note, I was surprised. I thought, “This teacher doesn’t know me at all. I will never be a writer.”

Boy, was I wrong. I guess this teacher spotted a skill that I didn’t even know existed.

In my interview for the Terrific Teacher feature in this month’s issue of Parker Lifestyle, Corley shared the rewarding feelings she gets when students realize they can do what Corley already sees in them as possible.

She recalled a sophomore who refused to do anything. She wouldn’t bring paper to class. She wouldn’t come prepared. She was just waiting to be “old enough to get a job.” Corley wasn’t discouraged.

The math teacher told the girl that she would graduate and that she would help her. She told her that this wasn’t an argument and she didn’t have to agree.

“This is just me, looking at you, and I see you walking across the stage,” she quotes herself as saying to the student.

The next day, the girl brought a coloring book and colored, which Corley says was awesome. Then, over the course of the year, Corley continued to provide support and encouragement, putting notes on her desk that said things like, “I believe in you.”

The support, encouragement and vision for what this student could be made a difference.

As Corley explains: “She came up to me first day of her junior year and she asked, ‘Are you going to be here in two years?’

“I said, ‘I think so.’

“She said, ‘You have to promise me you’ll be here in two years’.

“I said, ‘All right. I will stay here for sure for two years. Why’?”

The student replied, “Because I’m going to graduate with a two-year college degree and my high school degree.”

Sure enough. That’s what she did. She received two diplomas at her high school graduation.

As Corley put it: “She just needed someone to see something.”

So this Thanksgiving, I am giving special thanks to those teachers who “see something” in their students, just like my middle school teacher who predicted that I would become a writer. Without them, many students wouldn’t become the productive and successful adults they are today.