As the school year comes to a close, not the close everyone thought they would see, but one that allowed everyone to see the effects a teacher can have on a child. The dedicated teachers who were taken out of their usual routine and became creative and diligent in their quest to carry on the education of their students. It gave all of us a new appreciation and awareness of the job they do each and every day.
There is a heartwarming story that circulates from place-to-place that shows the impact of one teacher on a child. Heartwarming though it may be, the tale of little Teddy Stoddard and his inspirational teacher, Mrs. Thompson, is a work of fiction. The original short story, which first appeared in a significantly different form in the magazine Home Life in 1976, was written by Elizabeth Silance Ballard (now Elizabeth Ungar) and entitled "Three Letters from Teddy." The main character's name in Ungar's story was Teddy Stallard, not Teddy Stoddard.
Although fictional, this is a genuine illustration of what is actually reality for so many students, whether now, past and you can bet in the future:
“As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children an untruth. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. However, that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.
Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. In addition, Teddy could be unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X's and then putting a big "F" at the top of his papers.
At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child's past records and she put Teddy's off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise. Teddy's first grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is a bright 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, "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 he sometimes sleeps in class."
By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy's.
Check next week’s column in Pike Monroe Life for the conclusion of this story.