I am a hoarder. I still keep some of my elementary and middle school worksheets, projects, tests and even drawings. Why I am a hoarder, is a question I will allow my therapist to answer. In the meantime, I have to declutter my room a few times a year, but I always get distracted by the things I find: like almost all the Stars of the Week I received from my teachers throughout the years at SJBS; somehow I can never get myself to get rid of those. I dust them off and read through the words each of them left on the back. Of course not all of them have a profound message, some just simply say: “Good job this week!” Or “Keep it up!” Which in the moment serves its purpose of encouraging a student, and that’s more than enough. Some, however, kind of surprised me, to say the least. Like this one I received from Miss Sallie my 1st grade teacher; it reads as follows:
May 19, 2006
Irma… my STAR of the week… You are such a joy to have in class. Thank you for respecting your classmates and teachers, for always thinking and for SMILING every day!
Why did this surprise me? Well at the time it really didn’t, because I was 6 years old. I could barely read Spanish let alone English, to my eyes it was just a blur of shapes. But that is exactly why it touched my heart so deeply when I read it again when I was older. You see, to me, she didn’t write that to the 6 year old me, she wrote it about that 6 year old me but with the expectation that I would continue my bilingual education, and my older self would be able to understand every word in the future. When I realised this, I guess it subconsciously made me set expectations for myself as a student and even as a person. Maybe Miss Sallie didn’t put that much thought into what she was doing, but that doesn’t change the effect it had on me. Every day, I would try to, ironically, live up to that thoughtful, respectful and joyful little girl everywhere I went. Even to this day, I still try to make her justice and I’d like to believe I’ve been doing a decent job at it.
Later on, it also set a precedent on my thoughts about teachers in general. They didn’t have to be just some stranger who taught me how to read, or speak a different language, they could become friends that saw my potential and helped me reach it. Every Star of the Week, every hug, every word of affirmation, every feedback on my reading journals, eventually helped me recognize how big of an impact a teacher can cause in a student with such little gestures.
That’s why I wanted to become a teacher; more specifically, a teacher at SJBS. To make Stars of the Week, and write very encouraging and personalised messages on the back, to kids that don’t really know how to read yet, hoping that one day they will and when they do they’ll also realise just how much I care for and believe in them. I love when I get to do it, it’s kind of surreal that it is me who makes them now. However, the stars are just the action, I want what comes with preserving a star: to be remembered with fondness and endearment. I want to be a student’s Ms. Sallie, Ms. Tracy, Ms. Sarah, Ms. Hazel, Ms. Allison, Ms. Jessica, Ms. Laurel, Ms. Faith, Mr. Sean, Mr. Ken, Ms. Heidi, Mr. Aaron, Ms. Dorin, Ms. Andrea, Miss Sarah S., Ms. Maddie, Mr. Derek, Mr. Mike, Ms. Natalia, Ms. Jaime, and every single teacher, camp counsellor or volunteer that directly or indirectly taught me something valuable about school or about life. That’s why even if I leave from time to time, I will always come back. I am tethered to this school, to these wonderful kids because I am a hoarder of things, of memories and of dreams that I wish to pass on to them.