Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Celebrating excellence

at Two Writing Teachers!
Last Wednesday evening, after rushing home to change clothes and stuff some Wendy's into my mouth, I found myself back at school.  Decked out in dresses and ties, teachersand students milled around the atrium, exchanging excited pleasantries.

"Wow, you look so nice in that shirt and tie!"
"What a pretty dress!"
"Which family members are here for you?"

Finally, we formed a long snake with two stripes: teachers on one side and students on the other.  A peaceful processional drifted to our ears, and the snake slithered through the auditorium doors and down the steps, splitting as the students continued onto the stage and the teachers took our reserved seats.

One by one, each student came to center stage, met by his or her nominating teacher.  As each pair stood together on stage, the Master of Ceremonies read the nominator's special description of the student.  Many were outstanding for their academic work, but there were also students who were recognized for their superior effort, dramatic improvement, or leadership.  All were certainly outstanding young people, but I knew that none compared to my student.

Finally, it was our turn.  Wondering why standing on a stage still gives me such jitters, I took a deep breath and strode out to meet my student, congratulating him with a handshake.  As someone else's voice floated my words through the air, we faced the audience with smiles.

Is that guy reading too fast?  I wish he would have paused there.  I hope everybody hasn't stopped listening since we're so late in the program.  I hope they can hear what he's saying clearly enough!  My mind raced, and I felt sweat running down my back from the nervousness of being on stage.

Halfway through my words, I noticed my student tilt his head back, blinking back tears.  Time seemed to slow down as my words ran out. "Thank you!" he said, but the gratitude in his eyes was enough.  We hugged to powerful applause that resonated through the auditorium as I gave him the certificate and walked off the stage.  Is it just me, or was that WAY louder than the applause for all the other kids?

I squeezed back into my seat to whispers from the principals and other teachers.
"Good job!"             "Great choice!"           "What an amazing kid!"    

At the cookie reception after the ceremony, countless teachers and parents came up to personally congratulate my student, even people who didn't know him!
"Do you have to work tonight?"  one couple asked.
"Oh yes, 10-7!" His teeth flashed against his dark skin as that signature smile stretched across his face. "I miss my bed.  It's ok though!"

Each time someone expressed their admiration, he'd just grin, shrug, and turn to me.  "Everyone is acting like I'm special."
"You ARE special."


  1. What an amazing kid! I'm glad you were able to honor him like this. Our school has a similar program (but for breakfast!) where each staff member can nominate a student for academics, improvement, attitude, leadership, etc. It's one of my favorite events of the year.

  2. Tears are blurring my vision as I read and write this. What an honor for your student! What an amazing young man! I'm sure the applause was louder for your student. This will be a moment he remembers for the rest of his life.

    1. Thanks Elsie! Another teacher told me afterwards that she thought the applause for my student was the loudest by far, so it really was! :)

  3. Oh, Jennifer, this is so wonderful. You are such an amazing teacher. I have tears too, for this marvelous gift you just gave to your student, and for his persistence in doing, yes, just doing! What a great story to share today. (One of the CNAs-certified nursing assistant- who cares for my husband is from Cameroon, speaks so many languages, is so sharp & kind & is working so hard to bring his wife & 7 year old son here to join him. Such a long wait-it's been since his son was 3! Like your student, he is persistent in his goals, is going to school to become a nurse.) Your story reminded me of this other young person from Africa, trying to make a new & good life. Makes us not whine at all, doesn't it?

  4. Isn't this why we teach?!?! To ensure that each child knows that s/he IS special, not just that they feel special. I love this, and think it would be so cool to meet this amazing student of yours!!

  5. I wholeheartedly agree with Jenb! Please tell your student that there are many of us who would like to meet your student! Wishing you a fabulous ending to this school year!


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