July 6, 2021
Dear Mrs. Yoes,
I don’t expect you to remember me, but I do remember you, and I have wanted to write to you for years. I’m just sorry that I took so long to do it.
I was your student at Northside Elementary during the 74-75 school year in the 6th grade. I didn’t stand out. I didn’t put any effort into my assignments. I didn’t even bother to brush my long stringy hair when getting ready for school. My name was LeAnn Rowland.
I neither liked nor disliked you as a teacher. I just attended school because it was what kids did. I moved on to junior high and high school, and I never thought much about you again. In fact, I dropped out of high school in my junior year. I got married that summer, and a year later, when I was supposed to graduate, I had a baby. Thankfully, I somehow had enough forethought to get my GED less than a year after my anticipated graduation year of 1981—in February 1982.
The adults in my childhood were disinterested in me, so I didn’t have anyone to guide me. In fact, I never chose to get married. My mother coerced me into child marriage at the age of 16 and put me on a path of pain and trauma. I didn’t think I had anything to offer the world. I started college several times, and I dropped out several times.
But I’m not writing to you to share my traumatic life experiences. I am writing to you to tell you that although I was indifferent toward you as your student, you were the best teacher I ever had. It took years for the lessons I learned in your class to come to fruition—and I find that to be astonishing.
You taught me responsibility and accountability. You always taught meaningful lessons that applied to the real world. You taught me how to think. You taught me how to spell the word necessary. You taught me more than I ever learned in any other grade or school.
Once, when you caught me chewing gum, you made me write a report on chicle. Now I’m a public-school teacher too. I didn’t become one until I was in my 50s for the reasons mentioned earlier in my letter. I started out teaching high school English. One of my first students turned in a plagiarized essay. So, taking what I learned from you, I had her write a report on plagiarism.
I hope you are well and have had a good life. More than anything else, I wanted to reach out to you to thank you for everything you gave me. No teacher ever gave me as much as you. I’m sorry I took so long to tell you.
With much gratitude,