As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children an untruth. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she
loved them all the same. However, that was
impossible, because there in the front row,
slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.
Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year
before and noticed that he did not play well
with the other children, that his clothes were
messy and that he constantly needed a bath. In addition, Teddy could be unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his
papers with a broad red pen, making bold X's and then putting a big "F" at the top of his papers. At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child's past records and she put Teddy's off until last.
However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise. Teddy's first grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners.... he is a joy to be around."
His second grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is an excellent student, well liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle."
His third grade teacher wrote, "His mother's
death has been hard on him. He tries to do
his best, but his father doesn't show much
interest and his home life will soon affect
him if some steps aren't taken."
Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, "Teddy
is withdrawn and doesn't show much interest
in school. He doesn't have many friends and
he sometimes sleeps in class."
By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy's. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of perfume.. But she stifled the children's laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, "Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to." After the children left, she cried for at least an hour.
On that very day, she quit teaching reading,
writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began
to teach children. Mrs. Thompson paid
particular attention to Teddy. As she worked
with him, his mind seemed to come alive.
The more she encouraged him, the faster he
responded. By the end of the year, Teddy
had become one of the smartest children in
the class and, despite her lie that she would
love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her "teacher's pets."
A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.
Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had
finished high school, third in his class, and
she was still the best teacher he ever had in life.
Four years after that, she got another letter,
saying that while things had been tough at times, he'd stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs.
Thompson that she was still the best and
favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life.
Then four more years passed and yet another
letter came. This time he explained that after
he got his bachelor's degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer....The letter was signed:
Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.
The story does not end there. You see, there
was yet another letter that Spring. Teddy said he had met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit at the wedding in the place that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom.
Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess
what? She wore that bracelet, the one with
several rhinestones missing. Moreover, she
made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together.
They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard
whispered in Mrs. Thompson's ear:
you Mrs. Thompson for believing in me.
Thank you so much for making me feel
important and showing me that I could
make a difference."
Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes,
whispered back. She said, "Teddy, you have
it all wrong. You were the one who taught
me that I could make a difference. I didn't
know how to teach until I met you!"
By: Elizabeth Silance Ballard,
Published: 1976 Home Life Magazine
Recipient of 8 "Excellence in Media" Angel Awards