Imagine my surprise when the tables were turned on me by you last summer.
I entered my classroom on a steamy day in August 2015 ready to prep for my 20th year of teaching. I found a very heavy package. As I opened it, I instantly knew what was in my hands. It was a Peter Lik photography book.
I knew that book well because just that spring when I was placing my school supply order, I had looked at it online. I wished I could have one, but it certainly wasn’t in my budget to order one. My mind raced in a panic assuming that I accidentally ordered it for my classroom.
Thoughts ran a marathon through my mind:
How did I do this?
I was just LOOKING at them online, I didn’t mean to order one!
How do I explain the mix up to my bosses and our finance office?
…but then I opened your letter. As I read it, I felt happy tears and got goose bumps!
In my flurry of excitement, I showed the letter to my bosses, my co-workers in the art department, any one I could find in the building…I even took a photo of it and posted it on my personal facebook account. People were in awe.
Within a few days, my student got a hold of me to see if I had heard from you like she had. You didn’t just write me and give me an amazing gift, you were kind to her, too.
The words you wrote inspired me. Suddenly, I felt like perhaps I was more than a decent teacher. Maybe I had some greatness within myself that I didn’t see. I felt like I could accomplish anything because you, a man whose work I admire deeply, took the time to call me “inspirational” and a “legend.”
I read the letter to my parents and daughter over dinner one night. I showed them the book. My mom agreed that your letter was a “framer.”
From the receipt of that heavy box you sent to the very last day of school, my 20th year of teaching was honestly one of my favorite school years ever. I felt compelled to try new things and toss myself into areas where I could fail, but instead I was able to flourish.
Mr. Lik, I don’t just teach Photography at my school, I am also the Broadcast Adviser for Blue Jay Journal TV.
Upon receipt of your letter, I thought to myself, “Well, I was a finalist for JEA National Broadcast Adviser of the Year a few years ago, maybe I should try again? I am a ‘legend,’ right?”
OK, maybe that is a bit goofy sounding, but it’s true. You instilled within me the confidence to try so many new things within my career and in my day-to-day teaching. You did that with one letter (which is now framed in my home) and one amazing gift (your beautiful art book).
So, in conclusion, THANK YOU for taking your time to write a letter to both my student and me. Thank you for the photography book, and most importantly for the uplift. You lit a fire within me. I set a goal to make my 20th year as a teacher my best one ever. I don’t want that sense of adventure to end. I can only imagine what next school year, my 21st, will have in store.
I am more than just a fan of your work, I am an eternally grateful teacher.
Michelle A. Turner
PS: By the way, I am the 2016 JEA National Broadcast Adviser of the Year. Thank you for that “push” that I needed to believe in myself and hit the “submit” button on that application.