The teacher you never forget

It’s funny to think that the person who taught you how to sound out letters could have a significant effect on your life, but it’s true. They can, and for me, that person is Mrs. Meier.

Mrs. Meier shifted my trajectory. I easily could have chosen a path towards becoming an attorney like my father or a nurse like my mother. Those are incredible careers, and I know had I been enthusiastic about those fields, I could have selected one of those as my own career. But I think on some level my parents knew education was my passion.

There’s a picture of me that my parents have kept for years. It’s me on the first day of kindergarten, and when I picture what most “First Day of Kindergarten” pictures look like, my guess is it’s of a kid sitting or standing with their eyes barely open because the kid has decided that all of their teeth need to be showing for the camera – not me. My “First Day of Kindergarten” picture is, in my opinion, iconic. My dad is in a suit while carrying my baby sister, and I am dressed to the nines in a bright pink Gymboree outfit with my matching pink backpack. I’m marching into the building, squeezing my dad’s hand and dragging him into the building. My poor father is trying to keep up with his determined little five-year-old as she strode into school. If that wasn’t a telling sign for what my career would be, I don’t know what is.

And who was there to greet me on that first day but Mrs. Meier. This woman is the type of teacher you never forget. She is positive and loving yet firm. She allows space for her students to imagine and dream. She holds her students accountable for our actions. She sparks curiosity in her students’ minds. There’s no way for me to repay her for what she did for me. What she did for me was develop a love for learning, and that’s really all you could ever want from a kindergarten teacher.

To this day, every time I walk into a kindergarten classroom, I am in awe of how kindergarten teachers run the room. They have developed a system with structure and flexibility, and that’s what Mrs. Meier had done for me and my classmates. She had created a safe, nurturing, creative environment. Mrs. Meier was an advocate for me, and she challenged me even as a kindergartener. She’d give me additional problems or allow me to work on more projects. She had me write daily in my journal and create new storybooks. I think she noticed early on that I had potential, and she made it a mission of hers to help me reach my potential.

The most amazing thing is that Mrs. Meier continues to be an advocate for me. In 2014, twenty years after I had left her classroom, she learned that I had chosen to become an elementary school teacher. As a first year teacher, I was requesting funds on Donors Choose to provide materials to my class, and what did she do? She donated to my project. I was humbled by her action and wrote to her thanking her for her donation. Her impact is continuous, and I am so incredibly grateful.

There’s no way Mrs. Meier fully comprehends the positive impact she has had on me, but now that I’m an educator I can see how hard it is to truly understand what a difference you’re making. As an educator, we have an opportunity to shape lives, to grow minds, and to change trajectories for our students. However, we never really know what difference we’ve made in their lives because our students move forward, and we ourselves continue living our lives. We don’t really know what happens to our students unless we hear about them or we learn about the choices they made later on in their lives. Well, Mrs. Meier, let me just say this. Your stubborn, bright, creative little kindergarten student from 1994 grew up to be an educator, and she is happy with her career choice. She has a chance every day to create positive change in her students and at her school. You are a true inspiration.

Thank you, Mrs. Meier.

Mrs. Meier was a kindergarten teacher in Plano ISD. She is now happily retired. Ms. Kern was a 5th-grade teacher in Houston ISD. She is now an elementary school counselor in Austin ISD.

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