07/27/2011 01:41 pm ET | Updated Sep 24, 2011

A Teacher, An Inspiration

Dear Mrs. Morales,

Although I can speak only for myself, I can honestly say that the people you've impacted through the past two years are truly a huge group, and that you've managed to inspire each and every one of us in a different way.

To be perfectly honest, you scared me to death that first day. My very first high school experience took place a few minutes after 7:15 a.m., when you spoke to our class about the pressures and expectations of Pre-AP Biology. I was so close to switching into Regular -- you have no idea. But I'm infinitely glad I didn't. Because the lessons I learned that year span much more than genetics and ecology and mitosis and meiosis and photosynthesis. You know, I still remember the music you'd play while we were taking tests, and I still remember the feeling of our Bio textbook pressed against the side of my face as I fell asleep studying. I remember your powerpoints and how I accidentally chopped off the liver of... what? A frog? I think so. I remember walking into your room again this year, and laughing at the sign that said "-10 POINTS FOR UNNECESSARY CUTS," and being glad you remembered me. And how could I forget all those late nights I spent working on my notebook? I could list so many memories, and I know that in ten years' time they'll make me laugh and cry and wonder what it truly means to be in high school, but... the most vivid memory of all was your speech. For someone who had just gotten used to being a freshman, that speech struck a chord in not only me but all of your students. You made me believe that there was more out there, that the idealism that people lost so often during their teenage years could still survive, and you made me realize that I was stronger than all the obstacles that life threw in my way, if only I wanted it enough. You gave me hope, and that's not an easy thing to do. Because, you see, I've always admired teachers, but my admiration stemmed from their willingness to tolerate seven hours of bratty children, five days a week. I suppose I never thought of the ability teachers had to change their students, to teach them lessons not only in their subject but in life as well. You changed that all for me.

There are certain moments in your life that you remember forever -- that day you gave us your speech was one of those days. All of last year, in fact, will remain imprinted in my mind, not just because it was my first year in high school but because it was the first time I met a teacher that cared so much about her students, utterly and completely. And no matter what this means to you -- I'll always credit you for sparking my interest in biology. So, on the off chance you see me on TV one day, winning a Nobel Prize for curing cancer, be sure not to flip the channel too fast, because I could never forget to thank you. And on the slightly higher chance that I don't perform something of that magnitude... thank you anyway, not just from me, but all your students. You have touched us in ways you can't even imagine, I promise you.

So now it's sophomore year and I'm slightly more experienced in the way the world works and yet I still have hope for the future. And although I'm deathly afraid of what will happen to our Habitat Club when you're gone, and I'm also frustrated that my sister won't have to suffer through all the beautiful misery that I went through of last year, I feel, most of all, pity for the incoming freshmen, because they really will have no idea what they missed out on.

Mrs. Morales. You've stuck with us for so long, encouraging and motivating and inspiring us in a way I never thought a teacher could do, and I hope these words have somehow conveyed how much we'll miss you, and how much we love you. I know I've got plenty more to say, but I know that no matter how hard I try, I'll never be able to get it down just right. So I'll leave it at this. Thank you so very much, Mrs. Morales, for everything that you've done (it'd take too long to list it all) and from everyone that you've impacted. We will be a success, no doubt in part because of you, and don't be surprised if the majority of us end up on TV, giving a thank-you speech after receiving a huge honor. And maybe we'll mention a classroom, a teacher and a lecture that changed a life, and really, you shouldn't be surprised.

But we wish you all the best, Mrs. Morales, and these lessons you taught us? They will never be forgotten, but passed down through the ages because, truly, they should be remembered.
Thank you again, and all of our love,

Grace Li, and everyone else whose lives you've changed.

P.S. Can you please come back on the first day of school to terrorize the freshmen? Kindly and with no ill intent, of course.

P.P.S. We'll see you when we graduate -- you did promise to come.

In a day and age where so many people forget to give teachers credit, and look to them as merely placeholders in the classroom as children read textbooks and take tests... maybe it's important to remember that these are the people shaping the future generation. These are the people with the capacity to change lives. The people who have, and will continue to do so.