THE MENTORS THAT MAKE US
Certainly that was the case with me. I remember, in particular, my guidance counsellor, Mr. Byerly. We talked often in high school about all kinds of things. He was a hilarious guy — so quirky and goofy — but most importantly, he was one of those people who recognized my potential and encouraged me to pursue a more challenging direction than I might have otherwise. Years later, he’d stop by my parents’ nursery to check in on my family, and he would always ask about what I was up to in my life, where I’d gone, and what I’d accomplished. “It’s funny how many of us often can’t imagine the possibilities right in front of our faces until someone else takes the time to point them out.”
Last month, I went back to Wisconsin, saw my family, and attended my 30-year high school class reunion. Frankly, I couldn’t believe that a whopping 30 years had passed since high school, but my classmates were pretty firm on the matter. When the people in charge of the event asked each of us to share some of our favorite memories of teachers from our past, all I could think of was the first day of kindergarten, staring wide-eyed at my new teacher, whose pretty, long, blond hair mesmerized me as a little girl. I realized that, from that very first day, I loved school, undoubtedly because of her. It got me thinking: The influence a teacher or a mentor can have on their students is really incredible. Not only do they make or break the classroom environment — the determining factor for whether a kid loves science for the rest of his life or avoids it like the plague — but they can mold a child’s self-perception, creating positive changes that will reverberate far into their future.
Mr. Byerly, and dozens of other engaged and motivated teachers, always kept me interested in school. I was one of those kids who always liked school, probably because I liked my teachers. It’s difficult to point to any specific one because they all touched my life in their own unique way. Nearly all of them were incredibly encouraging to me, cultivating a passion for learning. I ended up valedictorian of my graduating class and went on to be the first person in my family to go to college. It’s funny how many of us often can’t imagine the possibilities right in front of our faces until someone else takes the time to point them out — an act that
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