In honor of teacher appreciation week it seems only fitting that I would express my gratitude for my former teachers, the ones who had the most impact on my life.
Mrs. Bonnano was my first grade teacher; 20 years later, I still find myself thinking of her and all that she did for me. I had major school anxiety, which stemmed mostly from the separation anxiety I felt being apart from my mother and the intimidation I felt by a child who was bullying me. It's no exaggeration to say I cried every morning I arrived at school, and often in the afternoon when I came back to school. My mother picked me up from lunch because I couldn't handle the entire day away from her (and I think I was also avoiding recess and my tormentor). Mrs. Bonnano never lost patience with me. She simply hugged me every day, let me know that I'd have a good day and that inevitably the bell would ring and I would get to go home. I became so attached to her, felt so secure in her classroom, that I never left it. Even though I was supposed to go to other classes for reading and math, I just stayed in Mrs. Bonnano's classroom. She had the lowest levels of both, so she even took the time to work with me independently at my level. I know personally how challenging it is to work with emotionally insecure students, and how daunting and time consuming differentiation (especially that for the sake of just one student) can be. A teacher now, I marvel at her dedication to her teaching and to me.
Like is true with any teacher, I learned so much more from Mrs. Bonnano than the content she taught me. I learned about compassion and care; that one can find love in the arms of people besides family; that no matter how tough your day is, you always get to go home. As the year went on I became more and more comfortable at school, entirely because of Mrs. Bonnano. I aspire, every day, to make my students feel as safe as she made me, because she's the teacher who taught me school-- when you're in the right classroom, with the right teacher-- can become a second home.