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Editor’s blog: Teacher’s words still matter after 33 years

I know. I know. Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week, but I think it’s pretty easy – and important – to thank a teacher any day of any year if the thought comes to you.

So, on this day, my deepest gratitude goes to Joan Majeski, my sixth grade teacher at Lincoln Park Elementary School in Muskegon, Mich.


Miss Majeski has magically worked her way back into my life through a box of report cards, schoolwork, greeting cards and artwork collected by my mom.  When my mom died in 1993, I took this cardboard box and have dragged it from shed to storage unit to dank basement – never bothering to open it.

My 8-year-old daughter recently inquired about some old diaries I kept as a kid and that’s what started this most recent trek down Faulty Memory Lane.  The diaries proved to be inappropriate for my extremely curious daughter (but made me REALLY glad to be a grown up). So, I pulled out the dusty box labeled “W, L, J schoolwork.” (Thanks mom!)

Dusty box reveals sixth grade secret

I had never attached that much importance to my sixth grade year or teacher. For some reason, I always remember third grade, the year I was relentlessly bullied and how my extremely sweet teacher that year tried but failed to protect me. She also thought I was the best cursive writer ever to pass her desk so I have always had happy thoughts about her.

Well, I am now swapping out that year with sixth grade in my elementary school memory bank. Turns out it was Miss Majeski who saw my gifts and potential as a creative writer and who encouraged me to push through my weaknesses and persevere.

Her note to me on my report card found me at the exact time in life I needed it. I was beginning to wonder if I had even come close to being on a path that was right for me – one that could give me a deep sense of fulfillment and joy. (Yes, it would be a lot easier to buy a sports car).

Miss Majeski reached out from the past and said, “Yes! You can do it! You are worth something!” OK – she didn’t say exactly that, but it’s how I’m taking it.  In her gorgeous cursive, this is what she actually wrote in June 1978. I note that she used up every line in the section entitled “Teachers Comments.”

Dear Julie, Your zest for life and learning have earned you some fine premiums. Academically, your grades have been superior. You have a right to be proud because you worked hard. Socially, you have many friends who look to you for leadership. With abilities comes the responsibility to develop these talents. I hope you will involve yourself in student government or in a club at the junior high. Creatively, you have blossomed into an interesting, humorous, clever and poetic writer. Some of your writing shows great depth of thinking and maturity. I hope you will continue to develop this talent. With so many fine qualities your choices for a career are many and varied. I shall hope for your success whatever your choice. However, if you become a famous playwright I prefer front row mezzanine seats. Good luck.

No, I haven’t written a play, but I am a writer. I am also a mother and classroom volunteer. I can spot children’s blossoming talents and nurture them. In this second part of my life I can strive to be more like Miss Majeski, who, in this November 2010 article of the Muskegon Chronicle, said she considers it her “job” to give her life away.

I thank her for giving part of it to me. Then. And now.

Share your stories about teachers who made an impact in the comment section. Please note what characteristic or trait made this teacher so special. Your comments may be published in a future EdNews Parent newsletter.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.