Letter: I teach thanks to those who taught me

May 17, 2017

To each of my teachers:

This past weekend, I graduated from university thanks to you. You may or may not remember me, but at some point, I sat in your classroom for nine months.

I earned an education degree, and during my coursework, I worked in countless classrooms, observed talented teachers and dreamed about my future classroom. One realization I have made is that teachers do their jobs diligently, with tremendous heart, and receive little thanks.

At home in Mukilteo during Winter Break, I laid awake one night, astounded at the incredible milestone quickly approaching once I returned to school in San Diego. As I mulled over my continuation in the education system as a teacher, I knew that I needed to thank those who shaped and sent me on to the noble calling of serving as an educator.

In the wee hours of the night, I started a list of teachers – kindergarten to high school – who did not just teach to the test, but exemplified tenacious character, cared deeply for students and made the classroom a home. I created a group of names of the teachers who fueled my fundamental belief in the awe-inspiring power of education.

My last four years have been a wild ride. There have been many ups and downs, but the downs made the ups sweeter. Among the most important lessons I’ve learned are how to wholly be myself, and how and when to speak with grace.

In the classroom, I’ve learned how to assist a student learning English, grappled with literary theory that I barely understood, and debated the merits of student assessment. Outside of the classroom, I studied abroad in London, served my university’s concert band as its president and spent hours watching the waves at the beach.

The last four years have seen hundreds of papers written, thousands of pages read, and way too many episodes of “The West Wing” watched. Each of these were in culmination and thanks to the diligence you displayed in your classroom and the dedication you exemplified regarding my education.

I truly hope that you cherish being an educator and fully realize the indescribable impact you have on your students. Please know, that from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for the way you impacted my education, future and life, both in and out of the classroom.

My walk across the stage was thanks to you.


Emma Cleland
San Diego
Kamiak High School c/o 2013
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