There she is. Yeah, it’s definitely her.

I haven’t seen her in years. She’s standing in the produce aisle of the supermarket, scooping mixed walnuts and pecans into a bag.

Nat King Cole Christmas music plays overhead. It smells like Santa Claus’ aftershave in this grocery store.

She couldn’t possibly remember me. I was the quiet man in the rear of her speech class. I was one of her adult community-college students who lurked in the back rows.

Like most in her class, I was petrified of public speaking. So were my peers.

My first speech was one I’d like to forget. I delivered a torturous five-minute monologue on the proper way to prepare Pop Tarts.

When I finished, she gave a smile that seemed to say, “I hate my life.”

I was an adult male with two jobs, a wife, and a back surgery. I tried my best in her class. And she rewarded me for it.

I’ll never forget her for that.

My classmate, Gary, was a lot like me. He worked menial jobs, he had daughters, bills. We complained in the breezeway before classes together.

Gary had a stutter—a crippling condition that embarrassed him. Simple conversation was difficult, sometimes almost impossible. Finishing a sentence could take ten minutes.

And when she paired students for final projects, she placed us together.

We worked on our speeches one evening at a sports bar. We set up shop in a booth on a Saturday night and watched the Alabama-Georgia game while scribbling speech notes on paper.

Gary purposed we make our speeches on the crisis facing modern paternity in a national economic holocaust.

“Yawn,” said I. “Let’s speak about baseball, America’s greatest pastime, or stock-car racing, or the ever-elusive, yet highly-documented and indisputably-real Bigfoot.”

We finally agreed on writing about our parents. I don’t remember much else that night, except that our notebooks had beer-stains.

And: Alabama lost to Georgia, 21-27.

Together, Gary and I stood before a small class and gave speeches. It was painful. Gary’s speech took nearly fifteen minutes.

But when he finished, the teacher clapped for him. She applauded so hard she almost broke her wrist. The class gave Gary a standing ovation. His face turned the color of a Venus Eagle cherry.

She gave us A’s, with two pluses beside them.

I introduce myself.

She doesn’t remember my name. We hug. It’s a little awkward, but sweet.

She asks what I do for a living. And I tell her that I write, and that I do a lot of public speaking. You would’ve thought someone told her she’d just won the Florida Powerball.

Another hug.

And another.

And even though I don’t know much about her, I know her type. She’s a woman who blends into crowds at, say, supermarkets. She wears plain clothes, non-flashy hair. But she’s not faceless.

No. If you could only see her with your eyes closed, you’d see a monument. She’s a woman who changes lives. A woman with more power over souls than any politician will ever bear. If you ask me, she is one of the saviors of our world.

She’s a teacher.

Merry Christmas, Gary. Wherever you are.

30 comments

  1. Susan Hammett Poole - December 7, 2018 10:17 am

    Fan-tab-ul-ous.
    A++

    Reply
  2. Steven P Bailey - December 7, 2018 10:43 am

    Wonderful. Merry Christmas.

    Reply
  3. Chrissy - December 7, 2018 10:51 am

    I had a few teachers like that. My college advisor believed in me and gave me the courage to continue on when things were tough. I sent him and his wonderful wife Father’s Day and Mother’s Day cards for years because they were my “college parents”. I’d give anything to see them one more time but I know I will one day and when I get there he will have a stack of edited papers with notes attached for my perusal and she’ll have supper cooked for me. They’ll also give me a great big hug.

    Reply
  4. LeAnne Martin - December 7, 2018 12:23 pm

    Tears this morning. Thank you, Sean! And bless that teacher.

    Reply
  5. Michelle Scheer Selma,Alabama - December 7, 2018 12:43 pm

    This made my heart happy!

    Reply
  6. Sherry - December 7, 2018 1:11 pm

    Teachers can change lives….thank you for remembering her and thanking her. That means more to her than you will ever know!

    Reply
  7. Lex Seifert - December 7, 2018 1:19 pm

    My husband shares your posts with me after he has read ones he know I’ll like. Just read this one while drinking my coffee. Tears streaming down my face. I’m a teacher. Thanks, Sean.

    Reply
  8. Norma Norton - December 7, 2018 1:27 pm

    So very touching

    Reply
  9. MermaidGrammy - December 7, 2018 1:46 pm

    You and your friend Gary made her whole career worthwhile.

    Reply
  10. Judy Kate - December 7, 2018 1:55 pm

    Your news was better than winning the Florida Powerball. I’ll bet she’s still smiling. Thank you to teachers everywhere, and Merry Christmas, Gary! 🎄

    Reply
    • Susie - December 7, 2018 2:02 pm

      Judy, you’ve said it so beautifully.

      Reply
  11. Susan Kennedy - December 7, 2018 2:15 pm

    As a retired teacher, I know for a fact this made her day, probably her week and year, possibly her whole life. Teaching seems so thankless until one of these happens. I love what you do, Sean!

    Reply
  12. Connie Havard Ryland - December 7, 2018 2:15 pm

    Teachers are the unsung heroes of our time. Underpaid and under appreciated. Thank you for this. Everyone thank a teacher today. Love and hugs.

    Reply
  13. Gloria Knight - December 7, 2018 2:43 pm

    My mother-in-law taught 1st grade for nearly 50 years. In retirement, she continued teaching by tutoring- just couldn’t give up her love for children & teaching them. Taught our daughter to read at age 5. Wherever we went in Calhoun GA, people would come up & say you remember me, Miss. Bea? And even when her mind was going, she would smile & say “Yes honey, how are you?”. Dedicated teachers are God’s angels!

    Reply
    • Rhonda Howell - December 7, 2018 2:55 pm

      Hello, My mother in law, too was a career educator right up the road in Dalton. The lives she touched at Brookwood school were many. First as a teacher then as principle. When we lost her to cancer her past students and parents stood in line for 3 days to tell us their stories of how she had made a difference. They aren’t all this way and they are getting more rare because of lack of support. If you or your child gets a good one make sure you let them know just how appreciated they are! Go Jackets!

      Reply
  14. paula jones - December 7, 2018 2:53 pm

    The lucky ones among us all have such monuments. For me, they were (1) John Bush––a high-school choir teacher who knew I couldn’t sing worth a flip but made me narrator in every performance, and years later I became a pastor who needed that same ability to stand before a crowd and speak, (2) R.E. Glaze––a seminary professor who got encouraged me through 3 semesters of *!#%>!* Greek classes, and (3) Paul Dekar––another seminary professor who taught me that being a good pastor had very little to do with speaking ability 😉

    Reply
  15. Jack Darnell - December 7, 2018 3:00 pm

    That was Ms. Grill and Ms. Brevard in a North Carolina mountain school. I wish I had paid more attention, would have been much easier on my ‘proofers!’ TRUE!
    Good post. (of course)

    Reply
  16. Liz Watkins - December 7, 2018 3:52 pm

    Love it🥰😍🥰

    Reply
  17. Mary Rice - December 7, 2018 3:52 pm

    Sean: You didn’t have much regard for yourself when you were younger but you had so many people who believed in you. You have grown into a man who writes the stories people need to hear. Thank you.

    Reply
  18. Linda Youngblood - December 7, 2018 6:31 pm

    Sean, you have once again moved me to tears. There are so many like this lady who have dedicated their lives to teaching. Yes, we don’t stand out in the crowd. But our greatest hope and fullest joy is realized in the success of our students. Thank you for your wonderful stories of everyday heroes. A retired teacher

    Reply
  19. Pat - December 7, 2018 6:43 pm

    This touched me today as I have a granddaughter that is a kindergarten teacher. I tell her that she has such an important role in the lives of these children as she is forming the building blocks for their further education.

    Reply
  20. Edna B. - December 7, 2018 8:15 pm

    You absolutely did make this wonderful teacher’s day. The teacher that stands out the most from my childhood is my first grade teacher, Miss Lind. On snowy or rainy days, my hair would get wet on the way to school. (we walked) As soon as my hair dried, she would brush out all my curls. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  21. dogsdolls - December 7, 2018 9:21 pm

    My dear cousin Lou Ann is a woman just like your speech teacher…a TEACHER!! who cared and continues to care for the students who passed thru her classroom. She is retired now but her influence has not retired. God Bless all the teachers who have graced our lives.

    Reply
  22. Shelton Armour - December 8, 2018 3:23 am

    Great story…proof of the power of good teachers and the effects they can have on our lives.

    Reply
  23. Mary Ellen Hall - December 8, 2018 11:40 am

    I LOVE THIS SEAN!! I TOO have an EXTREME FEAR of “Public Speaking!” I guess I’ve ALWAYS had it. I took a Speech Class n High School; & another n College, didn’t help!
    I guess I’ve become somewhat better the older I get, but it still isn’t good!!!
    SO; THANK YOU for SHARING, Sean!!!

    Reply
  24. Bev deJarnette - December 8, 2018 4:13 pm

    Thank you for sharing the affect one teacher can have on their students. My daughter is a kindergarten teacher and she pours sooo much heart and energy into her kiddos! She has a passion of the little ones she has responsibily over for each year. She is underpaid and understaffed but wouldn’t do anything else! I think what she does is absolutely awesome (even if she is my daughter). Thank you for highlighting the importance of a good teacher!! AND I too was in tears——again💞💞🙋🏼‍♀️
    Love, love, love your blogs❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

    Reply
  25. David S - December 9, 2018 1:36 am

    I remember speech class in college. One female student would not look at my face. Rather, she would stare at my knees. My knees, which would soon begin to jump, shake and dance in a steady rhythm until the end of my speech.

    Reply
  26. rantsandravescom - December 9, 2018 5:00 am

    I had a teacher like that. It makes you feel as if you are worth something in her class. Yet I had a teacher who told me I couldn’t have made the grade I made, and it was an audited test. Needless to say I loved the first teacher. I went to college and became a nurse with an “A” average. Its amazing what a few positive words can do.

    Reply
  27. Sherry Kughn - December 9, 2018 8:29 pm

    Yes, monuments in our lives. Great tribute.

    Reply
  28. Janet Mary Lee - December 11, 2018 6:11 pm

    God bless those special teachers, and God bless you!!

    Reply

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