I don’t know about you, but in elementary school and all the way through high school, I was what you’d call the “teacher’s pet.” However, let me make one thing clear: I wasn’t a typical teacher’s pet. I didn’t suck up to my teacher to raise my grade or get first dibs at snack time.
Don’t get me wrong, I had friends. I firmly believed in quality over quantity, so, while I never had a huge friend group, I had a few people I could have playdates with in elementary school and hang out with in high school. However, I gravitated to my teachers first and foremost. I wanted to be their friends and for them to be mine. I wanted to know what they did outside of the classroom and have conversations with them after class ended. I bought them birthday cards, drew them pictures and gave them thank you cards at the end of the year. I wanted our teacher-student relationships to blossom into something more personal by the time June rolled around.
My mom calls me an “old soul,” as I seem to get along better with people years older than me. I connected and bonded with my teachers in a way that would make some 9-year-olds stick out their tongue and say, “Ew!” But, I didn’t care. And now, I can honestly say that the experiences I’ve shared with my former teachers are some of my most memorable.
Here are four reasons why you should consider keeping in touch with your favorite teacher.
1. A Sympathetic Ear
It was the last day of my final year at Mary McDowell elementary school. Lauren had been my reading teacher for its duration. She was the first teacher that I was close with, but I don’t remember exactly how it happened. I would make jokes during class, point out her mistakes and keep a tally on the white board. Of course, we never spoke outside of class, except when Lauren would take our small reading group of seven or eight kids out to Dunkin’ Donuts to celebrate our finishing of a book. Other than that, there was no reason for us to converse.
But, on that final day, something clicked. I walked into Lauren’s classroom and strolled over to her desk, empty save for her. I handed her some sort of card that I made her, in which I believe I equated Lauren to my second mom. She absolutely loved it and gave me a giant bear hug. She went over to the counter to grab her purse to keep the card safe. My heart started to skip, pounding faster and faster before I asked, “Can I have your phone number?” I didn’t know what Lauren’s answer would be, but I knew I wanted to stay in touch with her, and in my heart of hearts, that she did too.
She grabbed a green slip of paper and wrote her name and phone number in black sharpie. On that day, I was 10. Now, I’m 22. Approximately 11 years later, Lauren and I are still in touch. The next year when I started at my new school and didn’t know anyone, Lauren was a source of support, someone just to talk to, in a way that I couldn’t with my own mother.
We lost contact for some time, but we reconnected several years later. Since then, we’ve gotten together for coffee at Barnes & Noble, had lunch at Le Pain Quotidien and gotten frozen yogurt at Bloomingdale’s Forty Carrots. Although our actual face time is sparse, we talk on the phone occasionally, text frequently and she reads the articles I write for Study Breaks. In short, Lauren has made me feel cared for. She told me I was smart and creative when I didn’t believe it myself and needed to hear it most. I highly encourage you to reach out to the teacher who you may have felt a similar connection with.
2. A Mentor
My third and final year at Stephen Gaynor, Mr. Meyer was my homeroom teacher. I’d never met or talked to him before the first day of school, and I didn’t know what to expect. I also didn’t start the year off amazingly, but I quickly shook it off, and, when I did, I discovered that Mr. Meyer was actually a funny guy — for sure a certified germaphobe, but an honest-to-goodness teacher, fully invested in the success of his students. I certainly have fond memories of that year, like the time Mr. Meyer persuaded me to enter a writing competition, and though I was hesitant, I submitted a piece anyway. Although I didn’t win, it was a valuable experience nonetheless.
However, there was also the time Mr. Meyer assigned our class to write current events articles that week using stories from The Onion. While the rest of my class already knew or caught on that the website featured fake news stories, I did not. I proudly presented my findings on eight babies that were born half-alien, half-human. Mr. Meyer and the rest of my class got a kick out it, but I did not. At least, not in that moment.
Finally, there was Paige-Fish. On a recent trip to Boston, Mr. Meyer had snapped a picture of me in these kooky, plastic glasses with fake eyeballs and decided to transfer my face onto a fish’s body. I thought this was the strangest, most wonderful thing.
All too soon, the end of the year had come. Next year, I’d be attending The Birch Wathen Lenox School to embark on my high school career. I still had one more day, at least. Everyone was signing yearbooks, and I waited until Mr. Meyer’s desk cleared before asking him to sign mine. I had absolutely no idea what he could possibly be writing, but there’s a reason we’ve kept in touch for the past eight years. I snatched my yearbook from him as soon as he motioned me over. I remember two lines by heart: “Paige — By now you know how I feel about you as a student and a person. You are one of the greatest people I’ve had the pleasure to know.” I wondered what I’d done or said to make my teacher write such kind words, but I suppose it didn’t matter.
Mr. Meyer has taken on many forms since I was in his class nine years ago. First, he was my teacher, then my former teacher, then a friend and finally my mentor. I didn’t realize the latter until last year. Whenever I was in a crisis (whether personal or professional), I knew I could ask Mr. Meyer anything, and he would give me sound advice when I needed it the most or constructive criticism when I asked for it, especially in regard to my writing.
I don’t know what I’d do if Mr. Meyer and I had never met, and I don’t want to. My advice to you is if you ever had a teacher you looked up to as a role model, contact them. I promise they’ll have some words of wisdom for you, and they’ll possibly tell you something you didn’t even know you needed to hear.
The logistical reason to stay in touch or reconnect with former teachers is for the future. Of course, there are your college recommendations, which are a critical component of any application. However, you may need a recommendation for something else entirely.
The summer before my senior year, I applied for a three-week intensive writing program called the Young Writer’s Workshop at Bard College Simon’s Rock the Early College. I needed a letter of recommendation and immediately thought of my English teacher that year, Mrs. Garbus. She also wrote me a college recommendation, and just this year, Mrs. Garbus served as a reference for an internship that I applied for — and got!
Although I didn’t talk to my English teacher much outside of the classroom, she decided to write me three recommendations, all of which were successful. I don’t exactly know why; maybe it was the enthusiasm I put into my essays and creative assignments, seeing as how I rarely spoke in class. The point is, your favorite teacher could be the ticket to your dream school or internship. Keep in touch with them, if for nothing else, as a resource down the line.
4. An Atypical Friendship
In October of my sophomore year of high school, I needed a jack-of-all-trades tutor. My mom found Ayla on SitterCity.com. I emailed Ayla minutes after our meet and greet ended, telling her that I was looking forward to working together. Little did I know that our tutor-student relationship would evolve into one of genuine friendship over the course of three years.
We exchanged birthday cards and little presents here and there, but I was reminded that our meetings were still professional every time I gave Ayla a check. But, I knew we were connecting on a personal level too, telling her of the goings-on that happened at school that day and making her aware of my feelings every time they changed. It didn’t hurt that Ayla bought me 15 or so lavender balloons after I’d told her I’d been accepted into Conn.
When I entered her apartment one evening for a tutoring session, I spotted a balloon bouquet sitting on Ayla’s living room table. I can’t begin to explain the gamut of emotions I experienced in that moment. She also came to my high school graduation, and I knew that she wasn’t going to be just another tutor I’d forget about. Even though I am now in college, Ayla and I have kept in close contact, seeing each other whenever possible, and I almost forget the fact that at one point in time, she was my tutor. Maybe you had a tutor that you really liked but haven’t been in touch with since your final session. Shoot them a text or give them a ring. You’d be surprised what could come of it.
There are so many reasons you shouldn’t lose touch with that special teacher or tutor, whether it be your elementary school math tutor or your high school English teacher. I bet you’re wondering what they’re up to now. See if you can fish out their email or contact information. I guarantee they’ll want to hear from you too.