You had been teaching for many, many years when Caleb and I arrived at the door
of your classroom. To you, this was the beginning of another day like many that
had passed before. To me, it was an embarking on a new and unknown path. Our
home therapy had been discontinued, and this morning we were to begin out-patient
early intervention services. We had received the letter in the mail telling us the day
to arrive, the classroom number and your name. I had envisioned what we would
experience but was not prepared for what I was about to learn.
The moment the door opened, your smile and personality welcomed us as a
grandmother would welcome her family. You instantly put me at ease as I rolled
Caleb and his ventilator through the door. You took the lead to show us around the
room and allowed us to choose an activity that Caleb would enjoy. Your approach
that entire first day was about making Caleb feel comfortable and about finding out
what my needs/concerns were as his mother.
Over the next two years your classroom became a place of support for me. On days
when I was so sorrowful about our situation, you dried my tears and provided a hug.
On days when I was frustrated with lack of services, you helped me to brainstorm
about other ways we could get Caleb's needs met. And on days when I was so proud
of an accomplishment, you celebrated with me. You were so present that on each
day of class you were able to provide not only therapy, but also the support and
encouragement I needed in order to make it through another week.
Because Caleb was my first, I not only needed help with teaching him his therapy
exercises, I also needed someone to guide me in my parenting. You gave gentle and
wise advice on everything from potty training, to eating struggles, to discipline. You
instilled confidence in me by your simple methods of explaining things and by your
trust in my abilities. You truly made me feel as though I could succeed in meeting Caleb's needs.
In your classroom there were several other students also receiving services. Over the
months it became obvious that some parents were better at following through on home
exercises and parenting tips than other families, but never did you show annoyance
nor speak ill of any of the families you were serving. Even on weeks when we were
not able to complete the home exercises and there was no progress, you were happy
to see us and encouraged us to pick up where we had left off and continue working
toward our goals. You encouraged us with each small step along the way, pointing
out that, yes, Caleb was getting stronger and moving in the direction that we wanted.
You felt comfortable with the rate of his growth and in turn, you gave me permission
to be okay with his slow, slow progress.
You carried with you a humble, yet informed spirit. As our time in your class came to a close, you had us connected with all of the services we would need to continue along the journey of Caleb's development.
Caleb has had many teachers over the years that have lived out all of these qualities,
but perhaps because I was so young or because Caleb was my first or because I was
present in the classroom for each session, your impact on me was the most profound.
Mary passed away a few years after we left her class. At her funeral were hundreds
of parents whose lives she had touched throughout the years. I don't know how many
of them were able to share with Mary the impact she had on their lives. So, to all of
the Marys out there, thank you for the job you do. You may never be told, but you are
touching lives for eternity. Not only have I been a better parent to Caleb because of
what I learned in Mary's class, but I have also been a better parent to all of my other
children. And what my children learn from me, they will pass on to their children and
their children’s children. And so please, never underestimate the power that you have
to make a difference in this world. You are not just teaching a class, you are making
the world a better place for generations to come through your impact on one family at