Letters from Teddy
letter came today and now that Iíve read it, I will
place it in my cedar chest with the other things that are
important to my life.
wanted you to be the first to know."
smiled as I read the words he had written and my heart
swelled with pride that I had no right to feel.
have not seen Teddy Stallard since he was a student in my
fifth grade class fifteen years ago. It was early in my
career, and I had only been teaching for two years.
the first day he stepped into my classroom, I disliked
Teddy. Teachers (although everyone knows differently) are
not supposed to have favorites in a class, but most
especially are not supposed to show dislike for a child,
every year there are one or two children that one cannot
help but be attached to, for teachers are human, and it is
human nature to like bright, pretty, intelligent people,
whether they are ten years old or twenty-five. And
sometimes, not too often, fortunately, there will be one
or two students to whom the teacher just canít seem to
had thought myself quite capable of handling my personal
feelings along that line until Teddy walked into my life.
There wasnít a child I particularly liked that year, but
Teddy, was most assuredly the one I disliked.
was dirty. Not just occasionally, but all the time. His
hair hung down low over his ears, and he actually had to
hold it out of his eyes as he wrote papers in class. (And
this was before it was fashionable to do so!) Too, he had
a peculiar odor about him which I could never identify.
faults were many, and his intellect left a lot to be
desired, also. By the end of the first week I knew he was
hopelessly behind the others. Not only was he behind; he
was just plain slow! I began to withdraw from him
teacher will tell you that itís more of a pleasure to
teach a bright child. It is definitely more rewarding for
oneís ego. But any teacher worth her credentials can
channel work to the bright child, keeping him challenged
and learning, while she puts her major effort on the
slower ones. Any teacher can do this. Most teachers do it,
but I didnít, not that year.
fact, I concentrated on my best students and let the
others follow along as best they could. Ashamed as I am to
admit it, I took perverse pleasure in using my red pen;
and each time I came to Teddyís paper, the cross marks
(and there were many ) were always a little larger and a
little redder than necessary.
work!" I would write with a flourish.
I did not actually ridicule the boy, my attitude was
obviously quite apparent to the class, for he quickly
became the class "goat" the outcast; the
unlovable and the unloved.
knew I didnít like him, but he didnít know why. Nor
did I know then or now, why I felt such an intense dislike
for him. All I know is that he was a little boy no one
cared about and I made no effort on his behalf.
days rolled by. We made it through the Fall Festival and
the Thanksgiving holidays, and I continued marking happily
with my red pen.
Christmas holidays approached, I knew that Teddy would
never catch up in time to be promoted to the sixth grade
level. He would be a repeater.
justify myself, I went to his cumulative folder from time
to time. He had very low grades for the first four years,
but no grade failure. How he had made it, I didnít know.
I closed my mind to the personal remarks.
grade: Teddy shows promise by work and attitude, but has
poor home situation. Second grade: Teddy could do better.
Mother terminally ill. He receives little help at home.
Third grade: Teddy is a pleasant boy. Helpful, but too
serious. Slow learner. Mother passed away end of the year.
Fourth grade: Very slow, but well behaved. Father shows no
they had passed him four times, but he will certainly
repeat fifth grade! Do him good!" I said to myself.
then the last day before the holiday arrived. Our little
tree on the reading table sported paper and popcorn
chains. Many gifts were heaped underneath, waiting for the
always get several gifts at Christmas, but mine that year
seemed bigger and more elaborate than ever. There was not
a student who had not brought one. Each unwrapping brought
squeals of delight, and the proud giver would receive
gift was in the middle of the pile. Its wrapping was a
brown paper bag, and he had colored Christmas trees and
red balls all over it. It was stuck together with masking
Miss Thompson, from Teddy", it read.
group was completely silent and for the first time I felt
conspicuous, embarrassed because they all stood watching
me unwrap the gift.
I removed the last bit of masking tape, two items fell to
my desk: a gaudy rhinestone bracelet with several
stones missing and a small bottle of dime-store cologne,
could hear the snickers and whispers, and I wasnít sure
I could look at Teddy.
this lovely?" I asked, placing the bracelet on my
wrist. "Teddy, would you help me fasten it?"
smiled shyly he fixed the clasp, and I held up my wrist
for all of them to admire.
were a few hesitant oohís and ahhís, but as I dabbed
the cologne behind my ears, all the little girls lined up
for a dab behind their ears.
continued to open the gifts until I reached the bottom of
the pile. We ate our refreshments, and the bell rang.
children filed out with shouts of "See you next
year!" and "Merry Christmas!" but Teddy
waited at his desk.
they had all left, he walked up to me, clutching his gift
and books to his chest.
smell just like my mom" he said softly. "Her
bracelet looks really pretty on you too. Iím glad you
left quickly. I locked the door, sat down at my desk, and
wept, resolving to make up to Teddy what I had
deliberately deprived him of---a teacher who cared.
stayed every afternoon with Teddy from the end of
Christmas holidays until the last day of school. Sometimes
he worked alone while I drew up lesson plans or graded
but surely he caught up with the rest of the class. In
fact, his final averages were among the highest in the
class, and although I knew he would be moving out of the
state when school was out, I was not worried for him.
Teddy had reached a level that would stand him in good
stead the following year, no matter where he went. He had
enjoyed a measure of success, and as we were taught in our
teacher training courses, "Success builds
did not hear from Teddy until seven years later, when his
first letter appeared in my mailbox.
just wanted you to be the first to know, I will be
graduating second in my class next month.
send him a card of congratulations and a small package
containing a pencil gift set. I wondered what he would do
after graduation. Four years later, Teddyís second
wanted you to be the first to know. I was informed that
I'll be graduating first in my class. The university has
not been easy, but I liked it.
sent him a good pair of sterling silver monogrammed cuff
links and a card, so proud of him, I could burst.
now - today - Teddy's last letter.
wanted you to be the first to know. As of today, I am
Theodore J. Stallard, MD. How about that!!??
going to be married in July, the twenty-seventh to be
exact. I wanted to ask you if you would come and sit where
Mom would sit if she were here. I will have no family
there as Dad died last year.
am not sure what kind of card one sends to a doctor on
completion of medical school and state boards. Maybe I'll
just wait and take a wedding gift, but my congratulations
You made it, and you did it yourself! In spite of those
like me and not because of us, this day has come for you.
God bless you. Iíll be at the wedding with bells on!