Hands raised immediately, stories came up one after the other: the teacher who, having noticed that a student couldn’t afford to pay the ticket for his graduation, paid for it on his behalf; the teacher who bought a pair of trousers for that little boy who had an old, worn out and patched pair of pants; the teacher who listened, the teacher who cared, the teacher with the nice big smile. All good teachers indeed.
And in the middle of so many nice stories, Catalina raised her hand to tell her own story.
She had been struggling with school since first grade. By the time she was in fifth grade her learning gaps were too big: she was bad at reading and couldn’t keep up with math. But what really got her was the (death) sentence written by her teacher with red ink on her report card: “Catalina is so dumb that she is no good even as a maid.”
Cruel and powerful words. With that sentence, that teacher murdered Catalina.
As if this were not enough, that teacher had a meeting with Catalina’s mother in which she persisted in trying to convince her about her daughter’s stupidity: “There’s no point for her to keep on studying, Catalina would never graduate from high school”, she said.
But Catalina’s mother wanted her to finish elementary school, so she let her stay in school for another year.
A disheartened Catalina began sixth grade with a new teacher and a new opportunity. Her new teacher noticed Catalina’s difficulty in learning, so she paid special attention to her. Catalina responded to her teacher interest but it wasn’t enough. Still inside of her there was that death sentence to bring her down.
Catalina needed more, she needed hope, she needed to believe in herself and that’s what her new teacher gave her.
One day after class, she came to Catalina telling her that she knew how to read palms and that she wanted to read Catalina’s palm. Catalina was curious to know her future, trustingly she lent her palm to her teacher.
The teacher looked at Catalina’s hand. Showing a big smile, she told her that she would graduate from high school –and not only that- she would also graduate from college to become a teacher.
When Catalina finished her story we were mushy, most of us with teary eyes, because we all knew that her palm reading became true: Catalina became a teacher, a very good one if I may say, and after years of hard work, she became Vice Principal of her school. With a standing ovation, we clapped for Catalina’s determination--what an accomplishment!--and for that wonderful teacher who gave her a hope to hold to.
Thanks to all the great teachers who have impacted our lives!
Let us be those who make a difference, let us be those who bring hope and faith, love and laughter, joy and wisdom into other’s lives.