Kicking off the Month of Thanks, here is my first letter of gratitude.
To Mrs. Wilma Sylvester,
I am a former student of yours. Specifically, you were my second grade teacher at Whittier Elementary in 1987-88. I was one of those odd children, blessed with an overabundance of creativity and an inability to hide my “unique qualities”. I was always at odds with my peers, but, thankfully, was also blessed with some amazing adult influences. You were one of them.
I think I remember you so fondly because of how encouraging you were to some of my more outlandish ideas. The one of these that sticks out most in my mind is when I decided to write a play and coerce my classmates to perform it for both our class and the other second grade class down the hall. That was also the year I wrote my first real poem and decided, as much as you can at eight years old, what I wanted to be when I grew up. Even then, I knew I wanted to be a writer.
The thing I remember the very most, however, is not something that took place within the classroom, or even within the school year. That summer, you had plans to travel overseas, and for some wonderful reason, you sent me postcards from different locations as you went. I remember the one from Holland most of all, with its bright red and yellow tulips.
The early years of my life were not carefree or sunny or full of promise for me back then. My days were filled with the dread of what torment my classmates would inflict upon me, or what flaw they might find to deride me over. I’ve fought off depression from a very young age, but I was lucky enough to find people such as yourself that gave me hope that perhaps I wasn’t a waste of space, or a giant, cosmic mistake. Wonderful people like you encouraged my creativity and helped me to believe in myself and my gifts. You were one of the first to instill in me that marching to the beat of your own drummer might be a difficult path, but the rewards are richer than you can imagine.
I am now 33, a Navy veteran, currently married to a Naval officer, and mother to three beautiful children. I have lived in Iceland, Japan, and in several different US states. I have an Associates Degree in Graphic Design and I currently do freelance book cover design for both independent authors and small presses. I’ve narrated several audiobooks, and written a few novels of my own, collecting an award and award nominations along the way. I am surrounded by a husband who fully supports my creative pursuits and a wonderful community of friends who give as freely of themselves as I would for them.
None of this would have been possible if not for the early encouragement you gave me when I was just another student at a desk in a small elementary school in Iowa. So, from myself, and from every other student fortunate enough to have you in their life, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.