A Letter to My Mentor

Re-posting this might seem a little self-serving, and maybe it is. To whatever extent that’s true, my apologies. But while I’m deeply honored by what Rachel wrote, there is something here that goes beyond one teacher and one student.

Many teachers hear constant negative messages about our profession. We are frequently told that the work we do is not good enough, or it’s not important unless it is quantified. (Then when it’s quantified, it’s often labeled as not good enough.)

Please, let’s define our work in human terms. Let’s judge our work based on all kinds of results, not just charts and graphs.

Many teachers feel powerless in the face of all of the media and political criticism. But we are not powerless at all as long as we take the time to encourage, motivate, and authentically communicate with the young people we are privileged to learn with each day.

Each of us knows exactly how to make a difference. Although we may not all be thanked with eloquence like Rachel’s, we should have no doubt that we’re doing something very important when we let students know that we value, understand, and admire what they do.

City Girl With A Country Heart

Dear Mr. Anderson,

I know this may seem unconventional, writing a letter to you via blog rather than sending you a real letter. I will send you a letter, I promise I will. After all you’ve done for me, I think you deserve all of this on paper, but I also want as many people as possible to know just how amazing you are. I think its safe to say that I’ve never been conventional when it came to writing, but I wouldn’t be where I am without you. I’ll try to keep my tears to a minimum as I type this, but I’m already getting a little emotional, so just be glad I’m not reading this out loud.

To truly understand how much you mean to me, I have to tell you a story.

When I was in the fourth grade I had an awful teacher named Mr. Tomczyk…

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2 Responses to A Letter to My Mentor

  1. meirelav says:

    Mr. Anderson-

    Rachel’s letter to you is really moving, and I can’t help but relate to some of the things she said. I had always loved reading and writing as a kid, but that love started to fade away when I entered high school. When I got to junior year, though, and had you for not only American Studies but Creative Comp as well, my love for literature was rekindled. You read all my writing from essays and personal poems to sloppy short stories and never once did I receive harsh criticism, just lots and lots of encouragement. Your passion was contagious, and is without a doubt one of the biggest reasons why I am an English major today at UIC. I, too, am sad to hear that you’re retiring, because other students won’t get the chance to be affected by you as I did! But I am certain that your enthusiasm will carry on in other ways outside of the classroom. I hope to be a teacher at least a fraction as great as you someday (provided the job market gets a little better!) and to give students the same kind of love for reading and writing that you sparked in me. I still remember lots from your lectures on Mark Twain back in AmStuds, and it’s helped me even as recently as this week, when my current American lit class has gone over Huck Finn! You have made such a wonderful, lasting impact on me and I am so, so grateful to you for it.

    Happy retirement!!
    -Valerie Mann


  2. Kathleen R says:

    I think it is a good reminder too, that sometimes a few words are all it takes. “I’m proud of you.” Something you may have said to many students and few took to heart. But to Rachel it made all the difference. Thanks for sharing this with us. Happy Friday!


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