I want to share a message of a stranger's kindness. I can't even begin to tell you how very much her thoughtfulness meant to me, but let me try.
If you live in the RSU 19 district, you probably know that we have a new superintendent. He arrived on July 1 to find that our previous superintendent had left us with a significant financial problem. Because district towns had been improperly billed for two consecutive years, we were in debt. Voters have twice turned down a request for a loan that would resolve the immediate problem. (The third vote is March 8.) Therefore, there has been a hold on all spending. That means no classroom supplies, no books, no field trips, no extracurricular activities, no after-school support programs -- unless funded by an outside donor. During the informational meetings to discuss the reasons for the financial issues as well as possible resolutions, teachers have taken a verbal beating. When this is coupled with the attacks from our governor on the profession, it takes its toll.
The day before vacation began, I stood in line at Hannaford's, purchasing a cartful of snacks for students to take home with them over vacation. Behind me was a young mother, with a little girl who was quite struck with all that I was purchasing. "That woman has a lot of applesauce, Momma!" she commented. I heard the mom explain to her little girl that some children don't have enough to eat.
As I unloaded my purchases in the parking lot, the young mother stopped by my car to tell me I had left something inside the store when I checked out. When I went back inside, I found that I hadn't left anything; rather, this woman had purchased a gift card and left it there for me. On the envelope, she had written, "Thanks for all you do!"
I work with high school students, and there are so many who come to my room for snacks to supplement their meals at school. Many will leave our building at 3 p.m. and not have anything to eat until the next morning, when they return to us. The budget issue has been difficult for our students, too. When the communities that they live in do not support the education of their children, we are all demoralized.
The day this mother stood behind me in line at Hannaford's, we had provided a school assembly to recognize the academic achievements of many of our students. Near the end of the assembly, our principal spoke candidly and commended our student body for rallying together in these difficult times, for remaining proud to be Nokomis Warriors. She told them how much she appreciated the teachers in the building, who continued to shield them from as much of the problem as possible in order to provide them with the opportunities that only an education can bring. Immediately, there was a smattering of applause, which swelled across the gym as our students stood and clapped for nearly five minutes in appreciation of their teachers. There were many of us -- and many students -- whose eyes were far from dry. I will never forget those moments.
And for this stranger to recognize and value the contributions that teachers make to the lives of our students was the "cherry on top." When I walked back into the store, a former student and a current student proudly gave me the gift certificate that the young mother had purchased for me. They hugged me tightly and told me that people do appreciate what we teachers do, and I drove home feeling the happiest I have felt in a very long time.
I told the story of the young mother's gift in the teachers' room the next morning, where my friends and colleagues listened with tears in their eyes and joy in their hearts.
Those teachers, like me, walked a little taller that day.