This is a story about a 5th grade teacher named Mrs. Thompson. On the first day of school she told the children a lie. Like many teachers, she looked at them and told them she loved them all the same. But that was impossible because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy. Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy previously and noticed that he didn't play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and he often needed a bath. And Teddy could be unpleasant in the classroom. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X's and putting a big "F" at the top of his papers.
At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child's past records and she put Teddy's off until last. However when she reviewed his file she was in for a surprise. Teddy's first grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners ... he is a joy to be around." His second grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is an excellent student, well liked by his classmates but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle." His third grade teacher wrote, "His mother's death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best but his father doesn't show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren't taken." Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is withdrawn and doesn't show much interest in school. He doesn't have many friends and sometimes he sleeps in class."
By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy's. His present was clumsily wrapped in heavy brown paper that he got from a grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open his gift in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one quarter full of perfume. But she stifled the laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy stayed after school that day just long enough to say, "Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to." After the children left she cried for over an hour.
On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed more alive. The more she encouraged him the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of "teacher's pets".
A year later, she found a note under her door from Teddy, telling her that she was the best teacher he had ever had in his whole life. Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he had ever had in his whole life. Four years after that, she got another letter saying that while things had been tough at times, he'd stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life. Four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor's degree, he decide to go a little further. This letter was signed with the letters MD after his name.
The story doesn't end there. There was another letter the next spring. Teddy said that he had met a girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died several years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the place at the wedding that is usually reserved for the mother of the groom. Of course Mrs. Thompson agreed and she even wore the bracelet Teddy had given her, and the perfume too. They hugged each other and Teddy whispered "Thank you Mrs. Thompson for believing in me. Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference." Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back, "Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference. I didn't know how to teach until I met you."
- Author unknown -