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by: Angela Maiers

Passionate Teaching: A Gift Every Student Deserves

I was just getting ready to publish Part Four of my Passion in Education Series. The final topic: Passion  as a Difference Maker.

And then, Nicole Badgley's passionate post came across my reader. As you read her heart- felt letter to her seniors, you tell passion a difference maker?

Today you mentioned that tomorrow is your last day. I am not sure if that means your last day in my class, or the last day of high school, but what I realized is that it is the my last day with you. I am going to miss you so much. I will miss your triumphant emergences from the “writing closet.” I will miss "kick starting" your creative process when you get stuck. I will miss hearing your stories about your “boyfriend” whom you babysit. I will miss your sweet smile when you have just helped another student and you look to me for approval. But the hard reality is that you will move on. You should move on. It is your time to move on. Your life will get really exciting, full of new firsts, new struggles which lead to new triumphs, and new loves. Loves that hopefully involve learning, experiences, and someday people. You will go on to college, and then on to a job you love, and eventually into a family.

When I look at you I see a lot of myself when I was the same age. I know, I know, this likeness could be perceived as a curse because of the way I turned out, but let’s call it a good thing for the sake of this letter. The things I see that we have in common are numerous.

I see in you as a dreamer with goals. You know what you want to do, where you want to be (philosophically) a few years down the road. I knew I wanted to be a teacher, and that I wanted to work with kids, even though I knew I would never make it rich. But the best advice I can give is to follow your passion. If you dare to dream you will be happy and fulfilled. If you have goals that go with those dreams, you will find that the money will find its way into your wallet.

I see in you an accomplished writer. You seem to thrive on being able to put into words the thoughts you don’t really have a verbal audience for. You see the value in preserving those thoughts, because they can be fleeting. I was the same way. I have many journals, but I have more backs of envelopes, scraps of paper, loose-leaf notebooks of pages from all kinds of notebooks, and many digital files of writing. The difference between you and me? You are confident enough to share those pieces of writing. I didn’t have that confidence when I was young. In fact, it took many years to want to even share the very best – let alone the drafts. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas and your writing. You have a great talent, and someday I hope to see you (and Allistair Graves) on the best-seller list. I promise to even stand in line for your first book signing.

I see in you a compassionate leader. You are someone cares about others, their well being, and their progress. You are fair and caring towards other people, and that shows in the manner in which you help others, including those who frustrate you. At your age, I loved being a waitress, helping with the Special Olympics, tutoring in college, teaching Bible School, and eventually moving into teaching. I can see all the same in you, which can be a heavy burden, but rest assured, “paying it forward” in your community is well worth the time and energy, and you get paid back in love and respect twofold.

Now you are probably sick of hearing nice things from me, and this letter might be getting a little long, but I can’t stop without telling you that when you are older, like me, you might look back and appreciate something I have taught you over the last four years. What you probably won’t realize, is how much Iyou; and if I don’t tell you specifically, then you will never believe it. You have to know that you have inspired me through you columns. You make me stop and take a moment to appreciate the moment. Adults can get caught up in working toward the future so much, that they forget to appreciate and enjoy what is happening right now. You have given that back to me. I am stopping to smell the roses, or the coffee, or whatever.

You have also reminded me how much I love to write. Just as I said earlier, I have been so caught up in work, raising a family, grading papers, cleaning toilets, making meals, balancing the books, and all my other chores, that I forgot to stop and do something for me. I remembered how much I had to say, how much I had to write, and more importantly, I realized that I am good at something and I should enjoy it while I can. You reminded me that I once had a goal to get published, and to write a novel. I have been published, and now I am working on that novel – thanks to your enthusiasm.

It seems that at the end of each year I am sad to see the seniors go. I am sad to see them graduate, and I am sad to realize that they stop coming back to visit after the first long holiday or summer. I know in my head that it is normal – and as it should be, but it still makes me sad. It will be a sad day when you walk out that door, and when the only information I get about you comes from your younger brothers, and then from your mom and dad when I run into them, and eventually from announcements in the newspaper. It will be a joy to watch your life unfold, because that is what is really happening; your life is just beginning. So go out there and make all of us proud, and know that you have an unofficial cheerleader waiting on the sidelines to cheer you on. Good Luck and God Bless you with your future. — Mrs. Badgley

Mrs. Badgley- Your passion for students, for teaching, and for this work comes through in every word. You, my friend,  are a difference maker!