I’ve been a classroom teacher for over 24 years, and can remember most of the names of the children I've taught. (Well, usually. Kind of. MOST of the time...)
Over the years I’ve watched many of them grow into incredible young people, and feel lucky that I can keep track of most of them through their parents, and others in the somewhat close-knit community.
But you know, there are always some that truly touch your heart- children that you know are amazing souls. You can do your best to teach them all that you should, but in the end they are the ones that teach you some incredible things.
His name was Liam.
His mother was from New Zealand, a witty, lovely woman- and his father was an amazing Irishman with a quick wit, a ready smile and a brilliant mind. He had an older sister that he admired, which was quite a unique for a fifth grader to actually admit.
It was my first year at Smythe and Wesson Elementary and I had an incredibly talented and amazing fifth grade class. (Which was unusual, because usually the NEW teacher gets all the, um, challenges. Let’s be honest.) They not only wrote and directed their own PLAY, they also wrote music and turned it into a musical that they performed for the other fifth grade classes and then their parents. Frankly, I had to just step back and watch.
They were also the ones who (astutely) recognized the fact that yes, I did indeed come to school wearing fashionable pajamas from Victoria’s Secret that I thought was daywear. (“Mrs. Smythe, are you sure they’re not pajamas?”)
I’ve seen many of them over the years, but never Liam. I have wondered and wondered about him, and ask about him each time I see his lovely mother. Apparently he met a lovely woman and moved to Paraguay, doing something or other phenomenal – of course I wasn’t surprised.
But I always remembered the sweet, red-haired young boy who taught me so much about the brilliance and empathy of a ten-year old child, who could not only punish a soccer ball but compose music, as well.
In twenty years, I have not had the opportunity to see him.
I was running out of Shmegman’s, our local grocery store, and ran smack into Liam’s mother. I noticed she was with a young man and woman, but hugged her instinctively not thinking. She smiled, and held me at arms length. Her eyes looked at me, and then behind me as she smiled as if sharing a secret.
I turned slowly and watched the handsome young man take off his sunglasses. My eyes filled as I looked at him- and then I wrapped my arms around him in pure joy.
We laughed, talked a million miles a minute at the same time, and laughed again. At some point he introduced me to his wife.
When we ended our incredible reunion, I turned to leave. But I simply had to say it. “Liam, you know you were always one of my all-time favorite students…”
He laughed as he said, “And YOU, Mrs. Smythe, were always my favorite teacher. I just told my wife that the other day. You were number one.”
I laughed as I walked to my car.
Hey Wall Street- let’s see you give your corporate heads that kind of bonus. Doesn’t get ANY better than that.