By Joel Hazard
In January, I had the extraordinary opportunity to reconnect with my dear second-grade teacher, Mrs. Estrella. For years, I had tirelessly searched for her online, but to no avail. So, when my best friend conveyed that he believed she had passed away years ago, my heart sank. Yet, as fate would have it, divine intervention stepped in, and I was elated when my mother informed me that Mrs. Estrella was not only alive but also had spoken with her, expressing her curiosity about my well-being and professional pursuits. If that weren’t enough, my mother went above and beyond by providing me with Mrs. Estrella’s contact information. I’m not quite sure how she managed to do it, but with the help of our family, my mom made it happen- as most moms do!
By now, you may be wondering what could possibly inspire someone to seek out their second-grade teacher and reconnect with them. From an outsider’s perspective, it may seem puzzling, but for me, Mrs. Estrella is that one teacher who had a profound impact on my life and instilled in me a sense of confidence and purpose that continues to shape me today. Before becoming my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Estrella had already served as my resource teacher, providing much-needed support to a student with significant learning barriers. She understood that she was working with a student who felt academically defeated, lacked confidence, and believed that learning was not for him. However, Mrs. Estrella never gave up on me. The following year, she became my second-grade teacher and made sure I sat in the front of the room near her desk. She would hold me in from recess if I needed extra time to complete an assignment and built a strong relationship with my parents in the process. Like my parents, I owe a tremendous amount to Mrs. Estrella for her unwavering belief in me.
In May, I will proudly receive my doctorate degree in Educational Leadership. As I reflect on this significant achievement, my thoughts inevitably turn to Mrs. Estrella, the educator who invested in me early on and helped me realize my full potential. That’s why I felt compelled to reconnect with her – to express my gratitude and show her how her unwavering belief in me propelled me toward success.
As you reflect on my story, remember that you are someone’s Mrs. Estrella or Mr. Pigden. As an educator, you hold tremendous power to positively impact your students’ spiritual, academic, and personal growth. You are responsible for setting high expectations, providing constructive feedback, and helping students reach their full potential. By creating supportive and safe learning environments, you foster positive relationships that encourage students to express themselves and develop essential life skills. Your modeling of empathy, kindness, and respect can help students navigate the complexities of social interactions and build emotional intelligence. When students are struggling with personal or family issues, you offer guidance and resources to support them. Above all, you help to guide students to Christ and prepare them for eternity.
So as you prepare for end-of-the-year events, take time to celebrate with your students and be a part of the memories you will all cherish. And always remember that one day, a student may go to great lengths to find you and share how much of an impact you had on their life. Never underestimate the value of your role as an educator and continue to inspire and empower your students to reach their full potential.