Andy Anderson, 129 TESS
(Except Niles, he was just a cool dude).
Dear Mr. Schaffstall,
Do you remember me? Probably not. I was that third-grader from your 2002/03 class that absolutely loved coming in to learn with you every day.
I guess that doesn’t really narrow things down.
You gave me the advanced math worksheets and told me that I could be doing more than I was. You made me think critically about propaganda and the world around us. You allowed me to be an entrepreneur in our classroom (and thereby realize that entrepreneurship is not my calling). You combined my wonder for the fantastical with my fascination with the logical.
You made me want to become a teacher.
Dear Mr. Bond,
How are you doing? I tried to email you a couple of months ago, but I guess you’re not working in the district anymore. I can’t say I’m surprised — you were clearly cut out for the stage.
It’s okay, the email wasn’t important. You remember in 2008 when we had that statewide writing competition that we were encouraged to enter? I had gotten so fed up with the system the year before when they wouldn’t submit the piece I wrote for fun that I wrote the most obnoxiously technically “good” piece I could to satirize how easy it is to write to the standards set forth by the academic community. I don’t know how a lack of feedback can look quizzical, but you certainly managed. I got honorable mention.
I’m pretty sure you knew exactly what I was doing. Thanks for encouraging my own personal rebellion.
Dear Mrs. Rutt-Houser,
I’m sorry to tell you that as much of an overworked mess as I was senior year of high school, things did not improve in college. But I did become an adult, and you were absolutely crucial in that growth.
First of all, can I just say how tragic it is that that class had to be such a sampler platter of foreign works? Bits and pieces of Tolstoy and Neruda and Conrad, as if we had the time to adequately dissect and analyze and evaluate them in the depth that they deserved. No, that class deserved the university-level setting to match the university-level credits we earned taking it.
But more important than that was the value of your feedback to me, on me. You weren’t satisfied with just whatever I came to class with, whatever I completed the night before and handed in. You pushed me to be bigger than myself, to be a version of me that only you could see at the time.
I guess you’re out of the military now? That’s pretty cool.
How often do you think about that Haiti trip we took back in 2013? Remember when our group finally got fed up with the young earthers harassing the non-religious of us? And Alex high-context dunked the hell out of them by reading that passage on how God would judge people based on their actions in the face of need, rather than their attendance in church? I still think back on the sweetness of that moment.
Anyway, I’d already had my Marcus Aurelius approach to religion and doing good in the world by then, so I can’t say that’d really had any lasting impact on me besides the satisfaction of having witnessed the sickest burn I’ve ever seen occur in real-time. You know what did, though? When you and your (later) ex sat down with me and were talking about doing work like this, long-term work without the religious overtones, through other international organizations. You said Peace Corps did good work, but they had such high qualifications for people who applied that you two had to look at other options.
Dear Dr. Baynum,
First things first: thank you for putting up with me all four and a half years of university. Honestly. Other professors were sure to let me know how lucky I was that I had an adviser that unquestioningly supported all of my endeavors (as if I didn’t already know). Even as I graduated, you were still giving me the tools to guide my success. I literally have plans to email you later this month to ask what to do next, and I can already imagine your exasperated anticipation — I’ve missed having your guiding hand in my life.
Moreover, do you know how much phonics I have been teaching over the past two years? Hella, Dr. Baynum. Hella. Don’t know what I would have done without that reading minor (or your unrelenting love and faith in me).
Thank you for making this possible.
Thank you for believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.
Thank you for being there when I thought I was going to fall to pieces.
Dear Dr. Schwilk,
Would you believe me if I told you that I have recommended Difficult Conversations to people to improve their relationships and communication skills with people?
You probably would, and I won’t even ask you to pretend that you don’t: it’s a really helpful book.
Not quite as helpful here, though. People don’t always like, uh, direct communication. I’ve kind of had to start from scratch, but it’s okay: along with my own bizarre form of realism that you and the girls eventually grew to appreciate (I think), I’ve been sure to infuse as much of your unwavering compassion and love as I can manage.
(I think it’s a sizeable amount.)
Dear Ms. Kerr (or can I finally call you “Dr”?),
Oh my God, I did it.
Oh my God, I did it.
Oh my God, I did it!
(Dear Rebekah, John, and Dad, I love you immeasurably. I’ll see you in 2020.)
This letter is not an exhaustive list of those whose kindness, love, and patience have shaped me–I wouldn’t have nearly enough time in my service, even with a third year, to address everyone who deserves it.
Read Andy’s previous articles and contributions.
This is Nia. Check your email!!! I miss you a lot, and I think of you often. Thanks for writing this – I can hear your voice in it. Hope things are going well for you over there. And don’t forget to come back so we can knit and cook togetherrrrrrrr.