Teachers Can Change Lives

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I woke this morning to find my husband in tears…but they were happy tears. He had just received an email from a student from 20 years ago. I wanted to share it with you, because it just goes to show how much positive influence a good teacher can have. It made me so proud to read this:

Hello, Dr. Freed!

Xxxxx and I were thinking of you this morning, and so I decided to share some of our happy thoughts with you!

I think your teaching made a strong impact on both of us. I have never considered until this morning that Xxxxx and I fell in love in your class.. I wonder how much of a success factor it was that we shared ourselves in that environment, through the stories we wrote?

You assigned us the challenge of writing original fiction short stories every week. As I faced rejection from his parents because of my father’s West African contribution to my skin, I explored my thoughts in writing. My first story for your class featured a European-American male in a secret relationship with a girl he wasn’t supposed to love – a slave. You listened with full attention, looking over your wonderful half-glasses, and I felt heard.

I also heard you. Really heard you. At age 17, I respected and believed you when you told our class that we were special. You told me a phrase I’ve repeated to myself often, when I felt blocked in writing: “Your writing is worth waiting for, because what you write is good.” That single vote of confidence has saved me from despair a number of times. It grew in me like a Rama word. I remember a few key lessons from you clearly. You taught me that a title had to have the right balance between providing information and attention-getting. You said that no writer could produce a story that didn’t reflect his own life, in some way. There was no real separation between author and product, and the writer who is honest with herself must come to terms with how much of her work is fantasy and how much is a look in the mirror.

You shared yourself with us, too, through your own writing. Both Xxxxx and I remember your short story about the robber who came and broke into a heart. On a lighter note, we also remember how you made us laugh as we analyzed James Joyce. You asked us what the meaning of “bottle green eyes” might be, and Xxxxx answered quickly, “A leprechaun!”

In spite of meeting my spouse in Freshman English, your film critique class was my favorite. Do you know that I cannot watch a film today without hearing the voice of Dr. Freed? You ask me, regularly, “Why was THAT song playing in the background? Did you hear those lyrics?” I often tell my own four children today that “Every word is a choice.” That’s a Freed film class phrase for sure. πŸ™‚

We miss hearing from you, and maybe that’s why I’m writing you now. I imagine that you aren’t on Facebook, but that you might be sharing yourself and your wisdom
through your stories. I’m sure you’re writing prolifically; is any of your work available for the public (or us) to read? I saw that you’ve written some pieces for theater?

You attended our wedding when I was 20 and Xxxxx was 22. We will celebrate 20 years this June! Here is a picture of our family of 6, grown through both birth and adoption. Our 15 year old son XXXXX is almost 16; XXXXX is 13; XXXXX is 8; and XXXXX is 7. We still remember that when we met you, you told us stories about your skinny 16 year old son who was 6 feet tall. Parenting seemed so lofty and removed from us then.. Now our own nearly 16 year old son is 6’2, and I’ve written more than a few short stories about raising little people. Time flies!

What became of your two students?

We are living the life of liberal arts graduates, I suppose, if that means using various talents in our careers and free time! Xxxxx graduated from UST with a BA in Biology and Philosophy and went on to earn a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy. However, he currently works as a software developer in the IT consulting firm we own together. Ha!

The late, great Dr. Gordon-Kelter would be proud of the diversity. He still loves dogs as much as ever. (Do you remember telling me that you knew Xxxxx heart was good because you’d read what he’d written about dogs?). For my own part, I was a UST French major who minored in biology, went on to earn an MBA (Management Information Systems) from UST and to work as a software consultant, and am now a practicing licensed marriage and family therapist. If it helps my case for a unifying theme, though, I did speak French throughout my IT career. πŸ™‚

May God bless you! I wish you the very best in all you do. One day, we want to see one of the screenplays you always dreamed of writing – I think you said there would be a theme of a blue car that appeared in all of your films. Is that still the plan?

Warmly,

XXXXX and XXXXX

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