by Shawn Yasutake
Golden, Colorado, USA
I’ve often heard stories of teachers being heroes to students, but sometimes the tables are turned.
I was on an assignment at a junior high school. Keely was one of my ninth-grade students. Keely was a “tough girl”, somewhat rebellious, but under her tough exterior, I could see she was very intelligent and caring.
One day, she walked up to my desk with a concerned look on her face. “Last night I dreamed you were in a car accident,” she said. “You weren’t hurt, but it seemed so real that I’m worried about you.”
I assured her I’d be careful so the dream wouldn’t come true, but that apparently wasn’t enough. “Just in case,” she said, “I have something for you,” and she handed me a purple rabbit’s foot.
I asked what it was for, and she replied that it was for good luck. I realized that Keely was concerned enough about my well-being that she would buy this charm for me. This touched me so much that I hung the rabbit’s foot from my rear-view mirror that afternoon.
Our district is notorious for treating new teachers like furniture, passing them from school to school with no regard for continuity. I had taken the job at this school as a short-term replacement for a retiring teacher. I knew going in that the principal had always intended to hire someone else for the position on a permanent basis. I worked hard, my students learned and they enjoyed my classes, but I knew there was no chance for me to stay. I got to the point where I was ready to quit teaching and go into another line of work. Higher pay, less politics, more prestige — all were considerations for me at that point.
When Keely found out I wasn’t returning the next year, she mounted a campaign in my behalf — getting student signatures on a petition, talking to parents and getting them to write letters of support for me, and so on. All was to no avail — the decision had already been made. At the end of the semester, I packed my things and moved on.
Keely’s support, however, made me reconsider quitting. Knowing that she would go out of her way to help me made me realize that I had made a difference for her and for many others. Thanks to this realization, I decided to keep teaching. I found that I really enjoy my job and my students. I now try to see the good in all my students, even the “tough” ones. I’ve learned to look under the persona and see the person.
Oh, and ten years, three cars — and zero accidents — later, I still have the same purple rabbit’s foot on my rearview mirror. One way or another, it has been good luck for me.
Thanks, Keely, wherever you are.
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 2.