I’m writing this right now, just a few hours after Betsy Devos was confirmed as Education Secretary, sitting on a couch and eating free snacks at my challenging-but-cushy job at the company I’ve wanted to work at since I was about 13 years old. It’s a job I wouldn’t have without you. Really, I mean that. I had to start somewhere, and I wouldn’t be here today, a functioning baby-adult-still-trying-to-become-a-real-adult, without you.
You gave me standards I still hold myself to. When I wasn’t very good at something, you helped me get better. When I was good, you challenged me to try even harder. You made me feel extra special and extra loved and extra believed-in. You helped me grow. You helped make me who I am.
Everything that’s happened feels like such a slap in the face. It feels so personal. Maybe I’m extra emotional and shaken by it because I’ve never really gotten over what an amazing public education I had, how thankful I am for it, and how fearful I am that others won’t get that same experience.
So this is just a big, sincere, resounding, shout-from-the-rooftops thank you to every public school teacher I’ve ever had. You did right by me more than you needed to.
Thank you for every time you opened up your classroom doors at 6:30 a.m., every winter day you stayed until it was dark out, and every time you invited us to your homes to celebrate holidays, both real and invented by us kids. Thank you for taking on extra work, for grading around the clock, for the SAT prep you didn’t have to give us, for often investing not only your time, but your own money to make sure we had everything we needed to succeed.
Thank you for the little things, all of which I appreciated in some way at the time, but some of which I appreciate even more now that I’m semi-grown: The “if you liked this book, you should read…” suggestions. The extension on the papers I clearly bullshitted — “I know you can do better” — so I could try again. The college recommendation letters. The readings of stories and articles and essays I didn’t even write for your class, but wanted your thoughts on anyway. The encouraging and the advice giving and the occasional consoling. All those times you let me hang out with you during recess or lunch or study halls or after school while you wrapped up your work — I cut into your free time, and you never once turned me away.
An extra thank you to those who I have stayed in touch with still, nearly eight years after I graduated high school and moved on with my life. A small “I do miss you sometimes” to those I haven’t.
I don’t know what comes next, but I do know that I will fight it to the best of my ability. I will fight because you fought for me, and it’s about time more people fought for you.
All my love,
PS – One teacher may not even read this but GOD, I can feel his eyes rolling so hard at how tired this “open letter” format is (I agree) and I both adore him for that imagined reaction and thank him for the temporary comic relief it gave me.